Original post 9/19/2020
Written by Bill Smythe
Bill Smythe is a founding member and former President of the Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County. He has served as a watchdog for city and county government spending. He paid close attention to the State Road 37 improvement project since its announcement in 2016. When he used his voice to support my re-election, his former group scrubbed the Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County website, including all of Bill’s numerous blogs. This article is reproduced here with his permission.
The ongoing saga of the State Road 37 project is now up to part 3. To review parts 1 and 2 click these links. There was a meeting held on Wednesday September 16, 2020 conducted by the Fishers City engineers to provide an update to the “concerned parties”. I was informed that the three county commissioners were in attendance with just ONE Fishers City councilor: Jocelyn Vare. In speaking with my allies on the county council it appears this meeting was called with short notice * and several of them had existing conflicts. Councilor Vare offered this explanation as to why none of her fellow councilors were in attendance. “The body of the Fishers City Council was not invited to this meeting. (I was invited by Rick McKinney).
It is my understanding the objective was to explain the reasons for the $42 million dollar overrun projections I first brought to light back in June. That number is no longer in debate. That is the new number. There was some history rewriting about how it moved from a $24 million joint partnership to a $66 million joint partnership but for the sake of future discussion, the new budget projection is now ( at least) $66 million.
It seems in the new telling there was a reference to a meeting held by the 37 Business Alliance in late January of 2016 whereby those in attendance complained about the project going underground like Keystone Ave. Since I set up that meeting I can confirm WE did complain about that as is reported here . However, if , as it seems is now the revisionist rational , the scope of the project was changed then ONE wonders why the budget projections didn’t change as well?
You can’t tell me in good conscience that the HamCo county council would not have balked at being asked to kick in $33 million vs $12 million , especially when they had already tabled it in February.
This was a highly politicized event that was being debated in the middle of a primary campaign where the leading advocate ( Mark Heirbrandt) was being challenged (by me) . Even if you favored the project , to suggest the amount in question wasn’t paramount to the Council’s support is just malarkey.
I asked Councilor Vare what she thinks they accomplished, if anything? She replied : “As the project manager, the City of Fishers has stated that it will continue to pursue cost savings. I’ve requested that the City frequently submit clear fiscal status reports to Hamilton County Commissioners, Hamilton County Council and Fishers City Council so that those bodies have real-time knowledge of the project finances and payment responsibilities. Cost overages may be inevitable at this point, but keeping us in the dark is unacceptable.”
I accept we can’t stop this boondoggle but I refuse to let them rewrite history and ignore the failures of transparency back then that still carry on to this day. The taxpayers need to know when they are asked to pony up another $42 million.
After I completed this blog I was informed that Larry Lannan had reported on this subject a day earlier. Here is his report in the Hamilton County Reporter.
* County Councilor McKinney sent me this explanation regarding the meeting scheduling as to why no County Councilors attended. “The meeting was announced at 4 45 pm Friday Sept 11 via email and was a reschedule of the August 20 “SR37 stakeholders” update meeting.There wasn’t any advance description of it to discuss how/why to fund the cost overruns…the entire County Council plans to have THAT discussion with the County Commissioners at our scheduled joint meeting on Oct. 7 at 5pm.