Rails, Trails & Rail Banking

Persistence often pays off in any political battle, and the people with the Save the Train movement would get an “A” grade from me for their persistence.  However, in this case, it is my view their persistence will not pay off in the end.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, a group of about ten Save the Train supporters sat in the council meeting holding “Save the Train” signs.  There was nothing on the council agenda that related to the rails vs trails issue, they just wanted the mayor and council members to see they were there.

If you are not familiar with the issue, Fishers is planning to convert the Nickel Plate rail line within the city to a trail, and Noblesville plans to convert the train tracks from downtown south to Fishers into a trail.

The Save the Train group has been pushing to keep the Nickel Plate Line a train track.  Most are familiar with the Nickel Plate as the rail line used in the State Fair train from Fishers to the Indiana State Fairgrounds for many years.  It was also used for other excursions, such as the Polar Express.

In order to convert the rail line to a trail, there is a process called Rail Banking that must be completed through a federal regulatory process.  One agency that is part of the Rail Banking process is the Surface Transportation Board.

Save the Train has been urging its supporters to send comments to the Surface Transportation Board asking that the rail line be preserved.  The group is also asking its supporters to send messages to their federal elected officials to preserve the rail line.

In a recent statement, Save the Train pointed an an extension of the Surface Transportation Board comment period and emphasized that 73 comments had been submitted supporting the rails.

It is fair to say there is a well-organized and very loud opposition to converting this rail line to a walking & biking trail.  You see their signs around Fishers and you couldn’t miss them at the Fishers City Council.

I continue to admire the work done by Save the Train.  It is democracy in action and it is good to see people with strong feelings about an issue organize for what they think is right.

However, having said all that, I do not believe Save the Train has much of a chance succeeding here.  Save the Train emphasizes that the rails to trails plan for the Nickel Plate is not a done deal.  That is technically correct, the regulatory process does continue.

Those supporting the conversion of the Nickel Plate Rail Line to a trail have been working hard as well, but have not been doing their work publicly.  I have it on good authority that local officials have been in touch with Indiana’s congressional delegation pushing for the trail project.

Here is one fact that must be emphasized in all this – the Nickel Plate Rail Line is owned by three government entities – Fishers, Noblesville and Hamilton County.  Elected officials made the decision to convert the rail line to a trail.  If you own the track and want to Rail Bank and convert the rail line to a trail, any federal body, including the Surface Transportation Board, will give the owners a great deal of weight in this debate.

That leads me to believe federal regulators will not stop the effort by local government officials to construct the Nickel Plate Trail.  The rail supporters are doing all they can, but it does not look good for their cause.

Save the Train is doing what it can to get its view known by the feds, but they are fighting an uphill battle.  I’m not saying Save the Train will lose.  I am saying they are not likely to win.

106th Street Will Not Be Closed 400 Days

Fishers city officials briefed city council members on how construction work along 106th Street in the west part of the city will be handled, during a Monday work session.  Bottom line, the construction work will not close all or most of the roadway during that time.

Rick Farnham, the city’s Director of Water Quality, says there will be “rolling closures” but the entire street from I-69 to Eller Road will not be closed the entire time, but parts will close for specific periods of time.  For example, Farnham said, the intersection of Eller Road and 106th Street will need to close, but only for about 2 weeks.

The contractor has not provided the city with the schedule of when work is scheduled to begin and the timing of planned road closures.  The city plans to use social media, through Drive Fishers, to provide current road closures as they are planned.

Fishers City Council, Judge Get 3% Pay Raise in 2018

Fishers Police Officer David Kimm (left) receives a 25-year service award from Chief Mitch Thompson at Monday night’s Fishers City Council meeting.

After a lot of discussions, the Fishers City Council voted to give itself a 3% pay raise in 2018 in an 8-1 vote, with Councilwoman Selina Stoller the lone dissenting vote.  Fishers City Judge Daniel Henke will also see a 3% increase in his pay next year.

Most city employees will see a 5% raise, including 2 elected officials – Mayor Scott Fadness and City Clerk Jennifer Kehl.  Council members also gave final approval to the entire 2018 spending plan for the city, totaling more than $103 million.

There were no public comments from council members on their pay raise issue.



Fishers and Development

I met my daughter for dinner last Saturday and had an unexpected experience- my first visit to Portillo’s since IKEA opened.  I expected IKEA to be beyond busy and crowded on its opening day this past week, so I steered clear.

When approaching Portillo’s Saturday the traffic pattern took me right to IKEA,  Based on what I could see, IKEA’s main parking lot was full and there were shuttle buses taking people to and from auxiliary parking lots.  I must give kudos to the police officers there and to the traffic planners.  There was a crush of traffic but it moved steadily.

I was fortunate…the traffic line going into Portillo’s was much shorter than IKEA.  Even at 4:45pm Saturday, Portillo’s was a very busy place.  My daughter Mary & I had a nice dinner, but I wouldn’t describe it as quiet.

When I first got word that IKEA was headed to Fishers, I knew that area of town would become something very different.  You never really understand how much until you see it and experience it for yourself.

But it’s not just IKEA and Portillo’s, Top Golf is also drawing its share of a crowd.  Since it is open year-round, look for even more golfers to utilize it’s offerings in coming months.

The Yard culinary development is moving forward with homes being demolished in that old Spring Dale Estates neighborhood.  We are still waiting for announcements as to what restaurants will be locating there.  We have been told “soon” for a few weeks now.

I was thinking about all this today when I recalled the joint news conference held by Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, announcing a joint effort to lure the Amazon second headquarters facility to this area.

My understanding is that Mayor Fadness has been spending  a lot of time and effort in putting together this joint proposal to Amazon with Indianapolis.  It had always been my view the Indianapolis area was a long-shot to attract Amazon HQ2 and that still may be the case.

However, Larry Gigerich of Ginovus, a firm that specializes in corporate relocation, did admit in a recent podcast interview with the Indianapolis Business Journal’s Lindsey Erdody and myself that although the Indy area may not be on the top of the contender list for Amazon, he believes Central Indiana would have a lot to offer the retail giant.  You can listen to that podcast at this link.

What if this huge Amazon development would locate in or near Fishers?  How would that change the Fishers we know now?

Believe me, I am not anti-development.  IKEA is a “get” that any Central Indiana city or town would love to have, and IKEA chose Fishers.  The growing pains there will take some getting used to but we locals will adapt.

But if Amazon were to come here, I hope city officials will have an honest conversation with long-time residents on the changes expected when a big economic development project like that is proposed.

Mayor Fadness is aggressive in selling Fishers as a place for businesses to locate and I do not see any sign he is slowing-down.  Give us time to absorb IKEA, Top Golf and Portillo’s and my view is we can handle nearly anything.

A Few County News Items From Fred Swift


Fred Swift

Hamilton County Reporter

The financially healthy Hamilton County government will adopt its 2018 operating budget in public session at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 16 at the Government and Judicial Center. The multi-million budget features a 6.9 percent pay raise on average for more than 800 county employees. Elected officials and department heads will get 5 percent raises next year.

* * *

Hamilton County and Noblesville parks departments plan Halloween parties for the public on Oct. 26 and 27. On Thursday the 26th at Cool Creek Park county park personnel will host a hayride, campfire, games and a “spooky nature trail.” On Friday, the 27th, Noblesville Parks will hold a Halloween event at Forest Park with games, dancing and a hayride.

* * *

The Indiana Transportation Museum is trying to raise funds to restore its prized steam locomotive known as The 587. The hope is to get the historic engine in working order by September 2018 which is the 100th anniversary of the locomotive’s construction. Donations may be made at the museum’s Forest Park office or by going to the transportation museum website itm.org.

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That box-like structure that motorists have noticed in the new roundabout at South 10th Street and Christian Avenue is to be a city monument structure featuring a lighted seal of the city emblazoned with the date 1823. That’s the date the city was founded by William Conner and Josiah Polk. It will be completed when the four faces are delivered and wiring is in place.

* * *

The Carmel United Methodist Church is looking for volunteers to staff its food pantry. The pantry is one of the busiest in the county, serving hundreds of needy local residents. It is located in the Mission House on church grounds at 126th Street and Range Line Road. Those interested in volunteering may call Lisa Williams at 317-507-7410.

Podcast: Hamilton County Goes To The Movies

Director Rob Reiner says he never liked LBJ because of the Vietnam War.  Now, Reiner has taken a closer look at Johnson and found him to be a fascinating character of history….enough to make a film about him.  My partner Adam Aasen talked with Director Reiner briefly just before the screening of LBJ to open this year’s Heartland Film Festival.  Also, we welcome Dan Cavillini as our guest…..he produced a short film being screened at Heartland – Homecoming.

IBJ Profiles Launch Fishers

When the old Town of Fishers decided to use public money to establish something called Launch Fishers, my first question was – what’s a Launch Fishers?

I was told it was a co-working space where business startups can collaborate and create a culture of trying new things.  In other words, it is in-between working on your new business at the kitchen table and renting office space.  Launch Fishers would connect that new business gap.

That was 2012, and now Launch Fishers has expanded, leaving the lower-level space at the Fishers Public Library to a larger home a few blocks away.

The story of Launch Fishers is told by Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) reporter Lindsey Erody in this week’s edition.  You will find quotes from Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness, Launch founder John Wechsler and other parties tied to the project.

You can read Lindsey’s story at this link.  (NOTE:  If you are not a subscriber to the IBJ, you may be limited on the number of stories you may access online)

HSE Loses to 8th Ranked Bulldogs

Hamilton Southeastern’s Griffin Lohman (3) and Kody Sparks (13) warm
up before the second half begins at Brownsburg Friday night. (Photo by Richie Hall)

Hamilton County Reporter

Hamilton Southeastern got off to a good start at Brownsburg Friday, but the Class 6A
No. 8 Bulldogs eventually took control of the game and sent the Royals to a 35-16 defeat.

Southeastern scored right off the bat, as Jackson Sweeney made a 75-yard touchdown
run 22 seconds into the game. Brownsburg tied the game midway through the first quarter,
and added two more touchdowns for a 21-7 halftime lead.

Cody Huppenthal scored on a seven-yard run with a minute left in the third period.
The Royals began the fourth quarter by getting a safety, but another Bulldogs score in the
fourth sealed the game.

Sweeney finished with 10 carries for 95 yards. Zach Boyle had a pair of catches for
Southeastern. Tyler Melser made both extra-point kicks

Southeastern finished Hoosier Crossroads Conference play with a 2-4 record, and are
3-6 overall.


Tigers Win, Share HCC Title

Will Syrus scored on an 87-yard touchdown reception (Photo by Kirk Green)

Hamilton County Reporter

They’ll have to share, but it’s okay.  The Tigers are conference champions anyway.

Presented with the opportunity to win its first league title since 2013, Fishers seized
the moment and defeated Class 5A No. 10 Zionsville 23-10 at Reynolds Tigers Stadium.
It was a grand occasion, as it not only marked Senior Night for Fishers, but it was
also the 250th win for Rick Wimmer in his decades-long, state-champion career.

“A lot of guys had that in mind and we were playing for Coach,” said senior Luke
Martin. “I know the underclassmen were playing for the seniors. It was a great night
because we were playing for each other.”

The Tigers will share the HCC crown with Avon and Brownsburg, who both also
won games Friday night. All three schools finished conference play with 5-1 records.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Wimmer. “You got to give a lot of credit to our seniors, who
were honored here tonight on Senior Night.  Just very proud to be part of these guys.”

Fishers scored the first 20 points of the game. Ben Norton scored the first three
points of the game on a field goal, then HL Lewis made a short run to get the Tigers into
the end zone late in the first quarter.

Norton kicked another field goal midway through the second period, then
Matt Wolff threw a pass to Will Syrus that resulted in an 87-yard touchdown reception.
Norton kicked the extra points after both TDs.

Wimmer said the credit for the Tigers’ fast start goes to the defense, which induced
two Zionsville turnovers in the first two series.

“Our defense really came up with some big plays that got them off the field and got
our offense on the field,” said Wimmer. “We took advantage of it early.”

The Eagles got on the board late in the second quarter with a touchdown to make
the halftime score 20-7. Both teams kicked a field goal in the third quarter; Norton
booted it once again, this time a 35-yarder.

Lewis finished the game with 129 yards in 30 carries. Wolff had another solid
passing game, going 8-for-17 and totaling 159 yards.

Fishers finished the regular season 5-4.

Fishers, Carmel and the County Option Income Tax (COIT)

When Fishers began formulating the city budget proposals for 2018, officials looked at the amount of income expected and the expense side of the ledger.  One source of income to the city is its share of the County Option Income Tax (COIT).  The state provides a formula as to how much cities are to receive from that revenue source.

Fishers leaders were surprised to find that the 2018 projected COIT money for Fishers would be $600,000 less than originally expected, while at the same time Carmel is to receive much more.  Fishers number-crunchers  began to ask – how did this happen?

City Controller Lisa Bradford laid out how this happened Thursday night before the City Council Finance Committee, and the answer lies with the City of Carmel property tax rate.

The Carmel rate was fairly steady during the years 2012-2016 at between 67 cents and 70 cents.  The rate went up to 83.5 cents in 2016, then went down in 2017 to just under 79 cents.

The COIT distribution formula is based on a “rolling average” of five years.

“When you jump that tax rate up, then your piece of the(COIT) pie, your average gets bigger,” Bradford told the committee.  “(Carmel’s) high debt is taking away from us.  We have been very conservative by not going with big spikes in (property tax) rate.”

“Sometimes, you get rewarded for bad behavior,” Coucilman and Finance Committee member John Weingardt said about the Carmel debt load.