Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard has asked for $40 million in bonds to fund an expansion of the police headquarters and other projects, but some city councilors are wondering if that amount is too high.
The council is considering a $32 million lease bond to cover the building expansion and an $8 million local income tax general obligation bond to cover a small part of the cost and provide a cushion that could be used for other unidentified projects if there are leftover funds.
At a Jan. 21 meeting of the council’s finance committee, architect Dan Moriarity of Studio M Architecture & Planning said the project is estimated to cost $34.6 million, with $18.4 million for new construction and $2.8 million for remodeling of the existing building. Other project costs include a 10 percent contingency, furniture for the new building, land acquisition and projected inflation.
The estimate also includes $1.8 million to move the city’s IT department, which is currently housed in multiple locations in Carmel, to Clay Township’s Hensel Government Center on College Avenue. TriCo Regional Sewer Utility recently vacated the space.
Brainard said he isn’t sure the city will end up moving its IT department, but if it does several options are being considered that range in cost up to $3.5 million. Committee chair Jeff Worrell asked the mayor to take a closer look at the potential move and return with a more solid plan and cost estimate.
When asked why two bonds are being proposed, public finance attorney Bruce Donaldson told the committee that the lease bond would only cover the police expansion project, so a different type of bond is needed if it could end up funding other types of projects.
City councilor Tim Hannon said he supports bonds for the police station but is hesitant to provide a “blank check” for projects that have not been specified.
“I don’t want to pre-set dollars aside and then find a purpose for them,” Hannon said. “Bring us projects, then we’ll look at those projects and consider more bonds.”
Brainard said he recommends that the council approve the full amount as interest rates are historically low and Carmel has “probably a billion dollars of projects that could be identified” to enhance the community. He suggested that the council provide input and approval before money is spent on projects that would use leftover bond funds.
Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider said that if the $8 million bond is approved he’d like to see consideration of some of the funds being used to expand parking options to accommodate the police headquarters expansion. He suggested a single level of raised parking in the lot just north of the building.
The committee is set to continue discussing the bonds and other proposed bonds at a future meeting.