Fishers budget for 2019 includes tax hike for Nickel Plate Trail, road work

The proposed 2019 budget for the city of Fishers includes a property-tax hike to pay for the construction of its portion of the Nickel Plate Trail, as well as other road projects.

Last year, Fishers, Noblesville and Hamilton County announced plans to convert the Nickel Plate Railroad into a pedestrian trail through Fishers and Noblesville. Fishers now is finalizing funding plans for the first phase of the controversial project.

Mayor Scott Fadness says the 2019 budget, if approved as presented to the city council, would increase the city’s property tax rate by about 4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. A portion of that increase—1 to 1.5 cents—will go toward a $12 million bond that will be used in part to construct the first phase of the trail, from 106th Street to 126th Street. That would include a crossing at its intersection with busy 116th Street that would go over or under the thoroughfare via bridge or tunnel.

The current property tax rate is about 65 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation.

Fadness, who introduced the budget to members of the media this week, said about $7 to $9 million would be set aside for the trail’s first phase, with the remaining bond proceeds going toward road construction projects around the city.

Depending on how much it costs to construct the trail from 106th to 126th street, the city could continue farther north or south, he said.

Plans call for the trail to stretch from 96th Street to 146th Street in Fishers. Eventually, it’s expected to continue to Pleasant Street in Noblesville, but Noblesville has yet to start working on its portion of the trail.

Officials originally estimated the full trail, which would run for 9.2 miles between Fishers and Noblesville, would cost $9.3 million to build, with both cities sharing the cost.

The Fishers Board of Public Works and Safety this week approved two contracts with firms that will draft plans for the trail, which will help determine a full cost for the project.

Fishers will pay architecture company Columbus, Ohio–based NBBJ up to $163,000, including $17,000 for expenses such as travel, to handle architecture and design, and Indianapolis-based EX2 Partners will be paid $112,000 to handle strategic consulting, including branding and communication with the public.

NBBJ has nine months to present a master plan to the city.

The trail is the subject of a lawsuit filed against Fishers, Noblesville and Hamilton County which contends that officials violated Indiana's Open Door law when making decisions regarding the Nickel Plate Railroad corridor and the trail now planned along it. It was announced on Thursday.

Fadness called the lawsuit "frivolous" and said the defendants would seek its dismissal.

The balance of the tax hike in the proposed 2019 budget would be for public safety, including funding for new police officers and firefighters and money to renovate or rebuild the fire station.

The budget plan will be presented to the Fishers City Council on Monday during a public hearing. The budget isn't expected to be approved by the council until October. 

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