Carmel City Council slows down Christkindlmarkt funds, schedules special meeting

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After a contentious split vote, the Carmel City Council decided to take a further look at a funding request for the Carmel Christkindlmarkt. Instead of immediately approving a transfer of $200,000 to help pay for the inaugural year of the winter market, which will surround a soon-to-be built ice skating rink outside The Palladium, the council decided Aug. 21 to send it to committee.

Since the first city council meeting in September is canceled because of Labor Day, the council agreed to hold a special meeting Aug. 29 at 5:30 p.m.

The funding proposal, which was a last-minute add-on to the agenda, would have transferred $100,000 from the 2017 Carmel Police Dept. budget, $15,000 from the 2017 Carmel administration budget and $85,000 from the 2017 Street Dept. budget. City councilor Bruce Kimball described the transfers as “excess” funds that would not be used otherwise, so there is no harm to other departments. He said CPD and the Street Dept. have extra money because of lower gas prices and that the money would otherwise revert to the general fund.

“It doesn’t change our budget in any way shape or form, but it does allow the German market to move forward with its orders,” Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said.

The $200,000 is in addition to $240,000 that was already paid to the nonprofit market with  money from the city’s arts fund.

Brainard said the items to sell at the market need to be ordered soon and described the urgency as “really down to the wire.”

Councilor Laura Campbell made a motion to send it to committee because there wasn’t enough time to review the request.

“I’m really not comfortable taking the money at this point,” she said.

Councilor Tony Green said he’s not opposed to transferring the money, but he wanted to know if more money would be needed down the road.

“Is this just a first step or a second step?” Green asked.

Brainard said there wouldn’t be additional city money spent on the market this year. He said the city grant money for the market should be cut in half for next year, and at some point the Christkindlmarkt will be self-sustaining through sales.

“Hopefully, the organization is on its own after that,” Brainard said.

Councilors Kimball, Jeff Worrell and Ron Carter said the request should not have been a surprise. The $200,000 appropriation was reported by the media in June, when the market’s budget was submitted to the council.

Carter said the council already made a commitment in the past to transfer the funds. He said he supports the project but questioned others’ support.

“It may be that some members of the city council don’t want a Christkindlmarkt for the community,” Carter said. “If that’s the case, we just have to say that and not continue to have us move down the road to put on this event for the community. I hope that’s not the case. It’s an appropriate expenditure, and it’s an event that will be successful in the long run.”

Carter said he believes under Brainard the city has never had a failure when it has tried a new project.

“We have to ask ourselves whether we want to keep listening to naysayers,” he said.

Campbell disagreed with Carter, saying it’s OK to question the market.

“I don’t know that it will be successful,” she said. “If it moves forward, I want it to be successful.”

City Council President Sue Finkam said the market’s budget has changed several times and the council never originally approved the project, but rather approved a check from the mayor’s arts budget.

She said this is the first council approval and she would like time to consider it.

“If you wanted it sooner, we could have been discussing this in July,” she said.

Brainard said he was disappointed because he thought this funding had been agreed upon. He said the market will be good for businesses, similar to warm-weather events like CarmelFest, Art of Wine, the International Arts Festival and more.

“What we don’t have is a lot of winter events,” Brainard said. “This will drive customers to our local stores and restaurants during a time of year when people spend a lot of money.”

A motion to vote on the funding died with a 3-3 vote, with Finkam, Green and Campbell voting against it. Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider was not in attendance to break the tie. In the end, the council decided to send the matter to committee and vote on it at the Aug. 29 special meeting.

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