The Town of Fishers has awarded the project to Loftus Robinson, a three-year old Indianapolis development firm whose principals are Drew Loftus, Kyle Robinson and Terry Myers. The town's tax increment finance (TIF) allocation area will be tapped to fund the $9.5 million parking garage. Presumably, bonds will be floated by the redevelopment area, which means the actual cost to taxpayers will be considerably more when you add in the interest charges on the long-term debt. The $9.5 million also doesn't include the three acres of prime land the town is donating to the developer's project. There's no indication on the appraised value of the land.
What has irked several candidate for election at Fisher's municipal election this year, its first as a city, is the fact that this project was awarded to Loftus Robinson as a no-bid contract. While the town council put out for bid a project across the street from the train station through a request for proposal process, no RFP process was utilized for the train station project, although it was subject to council approval.
Kenney took her questions to town council vice president Pete Peterson who explained the train station project is part of the town’s master plan.
“I think if you look at the original RFP we talk about a vision for the downtown area,” said Peterson.
“There were six original bidders which absolutely knew there was a phase 2 and what we were going to be looking for there.”
Peterson said the town contemplated putting the phase 2 portion, also known as the train station development, out to bid.
“The town looked at that, that was a possibility,” said Peterson. “There was a group that approached us where we were able to negotiate the best deal for the citizens. Many times you can put out an RFP and it kind of locks your hands up.”
Peterson points out the mix of apartments, retail and parking will bring in approximately $300,000 in property tax revenue to Fishers’ coffers.
“The negotiated deal was a super deal for the residents,” said Peterson. “It’s going to be a terrific development when it’s done. They’re going to see a much improved train station.”
Peterson said some of the criticism is suspect.
“Absolutely, it’s politically motivated,” said Peterson. “We’re getting ready to head into the first city election.”
Peterson disputes claims the project was not transparent.
“We’ve had over 20 public meetings on the downtown project, from phase 1 to phase 2, to the amphitheater, there’s been 20 public meetings on the project,” said Peterson.Kenney questioned town manager Scott Fadness, a candidate for mayor, about a $250 campaign contribution he received from Loftus Robinson and whether that influenced the decision. "With regard to your question about campaign contributions for the mayoral race, my campaign has raised nearly $150,000 and the Loftus Robinson company contributed $250," said Fadness in an email to RTV6. "Any large policy decision and any expenditure over $50,000 must be approved by the Town Council." More telling were the large contributions Fadness reported receiving from various law firms that do business with Fishers, along with a host of civil engineering firms, construction firms and other development interests who've benefitted directly from past decisions made by the Town of Fishers.
On a disappointing note, the Senate Tax and Fiscal Committee gutted a bill that set out to reform Indiana's TIF law. The committee removed a cap HB 1266 would have imposed on the percentage of assessed valuation in a county that could be placed within a TIF district. The cap would have been set at 12% of AV in a county, except for Marion County, where it would have imposed a cap of 10%. There were at least five counties in the state where TIF districts consume more than 12% of the AV. Marion County also easily exceeded the cap HB 1266 would have imposed on it. So when the politicians tell you that there isn't enough money to fund basic government services because of property tax caps, tell them they're full of it. There's not enough money to fund government because the politicians choose to hand out property tax abatements like candy and divert a substantial percentage of property tax revenues into the TIF slush funds so they have plenty of public dollars to hand out to their big campaign contributors.
UPDATE: There' more TIF madness in Indianapolis. Mayor Greg Ballard is holding hostage a plan to fix up Tarkington Park until he gets approval of a $5.7 million payoff to the politically-connected Browning Investments, whose owner contributes shit loads of money to the politicians, to fund his Whole Foods development project in the booming Broad Ripple Village. The Tarkington Park project would get just $1 million in TIF funds from the same TIF district that extends over a good portion of the city's central north side, in exchange for the deal. The park project would get an additional $3 million in ReBuild Indy funds, the slush fund generated by the extremely corrupt sale of the city's water and sewer utilities, and another $1 million from the Indy Parks foundation. It's a damn auction down here in Indiana. Get the hell out of Chicago and get to Indy right now where our public officials have billions of dollars to hand out as long as you grease the right palms. The best part of it is that you don't have any pesky prosecutors down here to look over your shoulders; they're all in bed with the criminal rackets that control our government here. Even better, the media down here, particularly the Indianapolis Star, will portray you as a great civic leader while you're doling out bribes to everyone instead of conducting the investigative journalism people of their profession are supposed to do.