Carmel City Council approves more than $200 million in bonds for infrastructure improvements
By Adam Aasen
After a failed attempt by some councilors to decrease the total amount of debt, the Carmel City Council voted Jan. 18 to approve more than $200 million in bonds to pay for various infrastructure projects, mostly new roundabouts and storm water improvements.
All project costs are preliminary estimates. Councilors reiterated that costs could exceed these estimates, which is why the bonds are set at $2 million each, more than the individual projects are expected to cost. If projects end up costing more than $2 million, they could be scaled down or other revenue sources could be found, but money from one bond can’t go to another.
If the projects end up costing less than the $2 million bond, then the money stays with that bond.
“The excess funds have to go to repay debt service,” said Bruce Donaldson, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg, who advises the city on bond issues.
Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider twice asked for some borrowing to be scaled back. He said he believes the city can afford this new debt but wanted the council to slow down a bit because he’s concerned that another recession could hit similar to 2008. He said he wants to wait and see what will happen with the U.S. economy, especially given the upcoming presidential election.
The city voted 6-1 to approve $160 million in county option income tax, or COIT, bonds for projects totaling $144.5 million in projects. Councilors Carol Schleif and Laura Champbell voted in opposition. These projects include the 96th Street and Keystone Parkway interchange, land acquisition for redevelopment, landscaping for existing roundabouts and Monon Trail reconstruction. These COIT bond projects will be handled by the Carmel Redevelopment Commission.
Rider suggested cutting about $30 million from these projects.
“There are multiple reasons I wouldn’t mind seeing this trimmed a bit,” Rider said, “but I want to emphasis that we can afford this. This isn’t a scare tactic.”
He said he supports the projects and said the council could always approve more bonds at a later date.
“Do we have to do all of this now?” Rider asked. “I know interest rates are going to go up, but not by much.”
Rider proposed an amendment to reduce the amount by $30 million, but it died 3-4 with Schleif and Councilor Laura Campbell joining him. He then suggested a $15 million reduction but the vote was identical. Despite his failed attempt at reductions, Rider ended up voting for the projects.
Here’s the projects and their preliminary costs:
- Range Line Road and Executive Drive one-lane roundabout — $1,587,500 ($2 million bond)
- Pennsylvania Street ad City Center Drive roundabout — $1,587,500 ($2 million bond)
- Carmel Drive and City Center Drive two-lane roundabout — $1,735,000 ($2 million bond)
- Constructing Monon Boulevard between 2nd Street and Main Street, two-lane Monon expansion — $1,500,000 ($2 million bond)
- 96th Street and Hazel Dell Parkway roundabout — $1,600,000 ($2 million bond)
- 96th Street and Gray Road two-lane roundabout — $1,612,500 ($2 million bond)
- 96th Street and Delegates Row two-lane roundabout — $1,750,000 ($2 million bond)
- Towne Road and 106th Street two-lane roundabout — $1,650,000 ($2 million bond)
- Guilford Road and City Center Drive two-lane roundabout — $1,725,000 ($2 million bond)
- Guilford Road and Carmel Drive two-lane roundabout — $1,750,000 ($2 million bond)
- Range Line Road and 116th Street two-lane roundabout — $1,890,000 ($2 million bond)
- 136th Street and Carey Road one-lane roundabout — $1,503,500 ($2 million bond)
- Carey Road and Hawthorne Road one-lane roundabout — $1,358,470 ($2 million bond)
- Total: $21,249,470 in projects ($26 million in bonds)
Storm Water Infrastructure — $42 million ($34.5 million in bonds but will likely increase to $44,500,000 in bonds)
Various CRC projects — $144,536,814 in projects ($160 million in bonds)