The Carmel City Council’s finance committee met April 1 to review some of the expenditures proposed in a $25 million bond to be repaid through tax increment financing.
Projects discussed at the meeting include light shows for the Midtown water tower and 911 communications tower, a museum building for the Carmel Clay Historical Society, interactive informational kiosks, signage at the Center for the Performing Arts and improvements to the Sophia Square and Tarkington parking garages.
Other projects proposed in the bond are $13.4 million for land acquisition and $4 million for roundabout art and other aesthetic improvements. Those items will be discussed at a future committee meeting. A meeting date had not been announced as of press time.
The council did not take a vote at the April 1 meeting but discussed the following:
Tower light shows
The city is proposing $1.5 million to fund light shows on the Midtown water tower and 911 communications tower. Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said the structures are important and necessary infrastructure that can’t be relocated but are considered by some to be an eyesore in the rapidly redeveloping area.
Brainard said the light shows, which are customizable and could be visible during the day or night, are designed to be “fun for the public” and serve as a unique amenity that would continue to draw people and businesses to Carmel’s central core. The show could be programmed with birthday or anniversary greetings or other announcements for a fee.
“These are some of the icing on the cake (projects) that will continue to help property values be maintained and continue to attract private sector dollars to the area,” Brainard said.
The city has already spent $20,000 on consultants to help develop the idea, but Carmel Redevelopment Commission Director Henry Mestetsky said the full scope of the project can’t be determined until an engineering study is done to determine how much weight the structures can support. Depending on the results, the city could opt solely for a moving band of light around the top of the water tower or add a curtain of moving light below it. He said it’s not likely the study would conclude that a light show isn’t feasible at all.
Mestetsky said he didn’t want to spend funds on an engineering study until the project is approved and that he does not know how much an engineering study will cost.
If the light show is approved by the council and engineers, Mestetsky said he estimates the city would spend $10,000 a year for content development and up to approximately $33,000 a year on electricity if the show is playing for eight hours a day.
Councilor Laura Campbell questioned whether the light show would disturb nearby residents at night, while Councilor Tim Hannon asked why the city would need to upgrade a feature that was improved in 2017, when the city repaired and repainted the water tower.
“It seems odd we’re calling the water tower an eyesore when we put $3 million dollars toward remodeling it,” he said. “I personally think the water tower is fine as is.”
City Council President Sue Finkam said she initially didn’t view the light show as a high priority but has since changed her mind.
“It’s probably going to pay for itself really fast in destination marketing from the visitor’s perspective,” she said. “I’ve come around on this one, because I do feel it would be heavily promoted and shared.”
The city is considering spending $2.5 million to help the Carmel Clay Historical Society build a three-story museum to replace its aging archive building along the Monon Greenway south of 1st Street SW. Clay Township has committed $4 million to the project.
The building is likely to be constructed even if the city does not commit funds to the project, but the scope of the project would increase with the city’s involvement. It is proposed to contain space for galleries and exhibits, community meeting space, public restrooms, archives, a gift shop and a rooftop garden that can be rented out for private events.
The proposed bond includes $650,000 for interactive kiosks designed primarily to assist Carmel visitors as they navigate the city. The kiosks would provide information on local events, restaurants and business and could send that information to the user’s smartphone. The city would work with Hamilton County Tourism to program the kiosks, which could pull real time information from the internet.
Mestetsky said most of the cost would be to run fiber underground to service the kiosks and for the metal enclosures, which are expected to last 30 or more years. He estimated the annual operating cost of the kiosks to be $36,600.