By Ann Marie Shambaugh
Hundreds of people signed an online petition launched in late January urging Zionsville officials to hold off on financing plans for a new town hall. A handful of them attended two open houses Feb. 17 and 23 designed to give residents a chance to meet with elected officials, architects and others involved with the project.
About 12 to 15 people attended each session, said Mayor Tim Haak, who answered questions and addressed concerns about the project. Although the turnout wasn’t as high as he had hoped to see, he said those who came represented a wide range of opinions on the issue and left better informed.
“They asked great questions and were very respectful and open-minded,” Haak said. “I think people came away learning a lot more about the project.”
Brett Holloway, a 23-year Zionsville resident, said Haak addressed her concerns about traffic and development, but she is worried that time has run out to make any substantial changes to the project.
“They’re getting a lot of feedback, but it’s almost too little too late,” she said.
Haak said that input from the open houses and other public meetings has led to some potential changes, such as an altered roofline and mechanical updates, but that “the overall scope has not changed a whole lot.”
Zionsville resident Tim Robbins said he found the open house to be informative but came away with questions still unanswered about funding for the project. He believes that the town should address safety and infrastructure as its top priorities.
“They do need something (to update town hall), but let’s just make sure they’re financially ready for it,” Robbins said. “It’s the surprise down the road that doesn’t go well.”
The proposed financing plan calls for borrowing $10.2 million to build a 41,300-square-foot town hall behind the current one. Zionsville would make biannual payments on the project over 25 years through a lending process that is similar to a mortgage. The proposed plan has an interest rate of 2.75 percent that could be recalculated in 10 years.
The town council addressed the issue at its February meeting but did not take any action. The council is expected to discuss the financing plan again at its March 7 meeting and could potentially vote on it.
Although additional open houses are not scheduled, Haak said anyone with remaining questions or concerns is welcome to contact him or other town officials to discuss the project.
“If people want to meet and talk, we’re happy to arrange that for them,” he said.