Tigers Pull Away From Kokomo, Notch Home Win

Hamilton County Reporter

Fishers pulled away from Kokomo in the fourth quarter and that led the Tigers to a
58-53 win over the Wildkats Tuesday night at the Tiger Den.

Kokomo led 18-13 after the first quarter, but Fishers came back to tie at 24-24 by
halftime. Alex Szilagyi helped out with two 3-pointers in the second period.

The Wildkats then edged ahead 41-40 after three quarters before the Tigers outscored Kokomo 18-12 in the fourth. Willie Jackson scored 12 points for Fishers in that period, including a 6-of-6 effort from the free throw line.

Jackson finished the game with 20 points. Terry Hicks was next in line with 18
points; he scored eight in the third quarter. Szilagyi had three 3-pointers for 9 points.

The Tigers are 11-11 for the season and host Class 4A No. 1 Warren Central on
Thursday in their regular-season finale.

 

Lawsuit Filed Over County Sign Ordinance

The Wednesday edition of my news-gathering partner, The Hamilton County Reporter, has a front page story about  Rick Sharp, a former Carmel Council president and current candidate for an at-large seat on the Hamilton County Council, filing a lawsuit in Hamilton County Superior Court 3 alleging a new ordinance passed by county commissioners violates his First Amendment right to free political speech.

Last week Hamilton County Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance prohibiting the placement of signs in county-owned public right-of-ways. Commissioners cited public safety as the reason for the ordinance. Commissioners say placing signs in public right-of-ways makes it difficult for motorists to recognize regulatory signs which are necessary for safe travel and often block the vision of motorists at intersections.

In his complaint Sharp says the commissioners make no showing of any public safety necessity and, even if they could, any alleged public safety concern does not outweigh the United States Constitution’s First Amendment right of free political speech enough to allow commissioners to restrict or regulate political speech.

Sharp alleges he would suffer irreparable harm should the court not grant injunctive relief prohibiting the enforcement of the ordinance.

Sharp is asking Judge William Hughes to declare the ordinance void and to award him costs, expenses and attorney fees.

Sharp is represented by Westfield attorney Timothy Stoesz.

Fred Swift Writes About Your 2018 Property Tax Bill

by

Fred Swift

(NOTE: This is a commentary written by Fred Swift of the Hamilton County Reporter. The views expressed are those of Fred Swift and do not necessarily reflect the views of LarryInFishers.com.  This opinion piece is posted here as part of a partnership between the Reporter and LarryInFishers.com) 

Hamilton County Reporter

Property taxpayers in Hamilton County will not see any significant increase in their tax bills this year, although tax rates will be up slightly in 11 of the municipalities and townships. Rates will decrease slightly in six other taxing units.

Local taxes remain relatively low compared with other areas of the state thanks in part to the county’s huge base of taxable real estate now nearing $21 billion. The tax base on which property taxes is levied has increased 4.2 percent in the past year due largely to new construction and trending increases of individual tax assessments. Individual statements, going in the mail in April, are a combined total of the tax bill for cities, towns, townships, libraries, schools and the county government. Taxes are due May 10 and Nov. 12.

Property taxes do not cover the entire cost of public services. In all taxing entities except schools, a one percent County Income Tax also funds a significant portion of local government spending. Schools receive a distribution of state tax revenue for the major portion of their cost of operation.

Among the county taxing units, Sheridan has the highest tax rate of $3.21 per hundred dollars of assessed value while unincorporated White River Township has the lowest at $1.50.

Deputy Auditor Lee Graham, who calculates the rates, notes that slight increases in the overall rate for Jackson Township, Arcadia, Atlanta and Cicero come because of Hamilton North Library improvements, and the higher Clay Township rate is due to a fire rate increase.

Listed in the table are the tax rates paid in 2017 compared with new 2018 rates rounded to the nearest penny.

The figures are overall tax rates for the various districts. A complete breakdown of separate portions of the rates in each municipality, township, library district, school and county is found in a legal notice published in Monday’s Hamilton County Reporter.

2nd Bond Financing Geist Park Gets City Council Approval

Monday night, the Fishers City Council approved a $5 million bond to finance the purchase of land for a new city park located on Geist Reservoir’s waterfront.  The only dissenting vote came from Councilwoman Selina Stoller, who also voted “no” on the bond in last week’s City Council Finance Committee meeting.

A $12 million bond is currently in place, but the eminent domain process has valued the land roughly $6 million more than the city’s offer to purchase the parcel from IMI Incorporated.  That required the additional bond to complete the purchase through the state’s condemnation process.

Council President Todd Zimmerman allowed public comment before the vote.  Former Fishers Town Councilman Mike Colby and former Democratic Council candidate Greg Purvis both spoke against the bond issue, citing to the possibility of ongoing costs the city may face in the future developing this park.

The council voted unanimously to suspend the rules, allowing a final vote on the bond Monday.  Stoller voted to suspend the rules and allow a final vote Monday, but voted “no” when the bond was up for approval.

In another financial item, the council voted unanimously to re-establish a
Cumulative Capital Development Fund for 2019.  City staff told council members this simply conforms current systems to changes in state law.  Some local residents apparently were under the impression passing the establishment of this fund would raise the city tax rate by 5 cents for each $100 of assessed property valuation.  City officials assured those at the session that the mechanism for consideration of such an increase is not changed by this vote and the city has no plans at this time to raise the local property tax rate for this fund.

In one more financial matter, the council unanimously approved an study done by Policy Analytics, an independent firm, commissioned by the city to conduct a study of data related to the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) in economic development.  Mayor Scott Fadness plans to present the report to the Hamilton Southeastern School Board next month.  You can read the report at this link.

Finally, Todd Muth of the Fishers Fire Department was recognized by the council for an Employee Service Award.

The only member of the council absent from Monday’s meeting was Eric Moeller.

Yes, I’m Writing About An Event In Carmel

There has been some healthy competition between Fishers and Carmel.  Our high school sports teams compete on a regular basis and are beginning to develop a rivalry.  One Hamilton Southeastern School Board member regularly reminds his colleagues when HSE or Fishers High School defeats Carmel in any sporting event.

So, why am I writing about Carmel?  Because there is an event raising money for an important cause and my film podcast partner, Adam Aasen, is hosting the fund-raiser at his family’s restaurant, Donatello’s in downtown Carmel.

This event will be raising money for an important local group.  Below is the full news release.  I would urge you to support this event!  By the way, the food at Donatello’s is great and is worth it all in any case!!

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Donatello’s Italian Restaurant in Carmel is hosting a fundraiser for Restored, Inc., an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that addresses human sex trafficking throughout the state.

The event, called “Springtime in Italy: A Time for Renewal,” is a 4-course wine dinner at 7 p.m. on Tuesday April 24. Tickets cost $75, which includes a charitable donation but not tax or tip. They can be purchased at 9 W. Main Street in Carmel or online at https://donatellosrestored.eventbrite.com.

Restored helps raise awareness and provide education and advocacy on the issue of human sex trafficking. In addition, victim services are offered such as emergency housing referrals, trauma counseling, court advocacy, food/clothing, medical help and more.

“We are thankful for Donatello’s putting together such a great event for Restored,” said Jim Eibel, a Carmel resident and member of Restored’s board of directors. “We are also thankful for those who will sit down with us and enjoy an amazing dining experience while taking a stand against human trafficking.”

Hamilton County hasn’t been immune to cases of human trafficking. For instance, in 2016 authorities identified nine young girls from Hamilton County who were purchased by adults for sex. The youngest girl was 11 years old.

Nationally, 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported that they were likely sex trafficking victims, according to a 2016 report by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Globally, estimates show that 4.5 million people have been trapped in human sex trafficking, according to the International Labor Organization.

Angela Khan, a Carmel-based philanthropist and owner of Sofi B. Luxury Rentals, decided to be a paid sponsor for this event because of her own connection to this issue. She said her mother ran away from home and was caught up in the world of human sex trafficking. She said people are often surprised when she tells her story — which she only recently became comfortable sharing — but she said it’s important to raise awareness about this issue.

“Restored Inc. is an angelic group of compassionate well trained individuals who know how to treat victims of sex trafficking,” Khan said. “Without these kinds of organizations, girls left untreated will turn to drugs and alcohol and too often the end result is suicide. Restored educates families to know the signs so that if you do see something, you can say something and know where to go for help.”

Hamilton County Sgt. Bill Clifford, a candidate for county sheriff, also has decided to be a paid sponsor for this charity fundraiser.

“Human trafficking is a failure of humanity where the worst of society prey on the weak for a profit,” Clifford said. “Law enforcement at all levels needs to be trained to identify warning signs and cooperate fully to eliminate the problem. Those most susceptible to human trafficking need to know there are better options and seek help and protection through the Government or faith-based organizations.”

 

Interested sponsors can contact Donatello’s co-owner Adam Aasen at adamaasen@gmail.com to sign up to support this cause.

“We are so thankful for everyone who has decided to support this important cause,” Aasen said. “I personally visited Restored’s offices and spoke to their staff and I can attest that these selfless servants are truly doing God’s work as they work tirelessly to both help victims and prevent future human trafficking cases. I just can’t say enough about the good work they do.”

 

Reflections On Living In Fishers And Writing A Blog

Picture provided by the City of Fishers

It was Thursday evening, February 15.  The place was Conner Prairie and the event was the City of Service awards, a night to recognize volunteers throughout the Fishers community.  I was the master of ceremonies, placed at a table with Mayor Scott Fadness and some of his city staff.

Even though it was my second year of emceeing this special celebration, I was still nervous.  I once had a speech professor in college tell the class that if you are not nervous before giving an important speech, there is something wrong with you.  The key is channeling that nervous energy into preparing the presentation.

And I did lots of preparation.  It helped that the mayor was in a talkative mood that night.  He described how his car died on him in the middle of a turn lane in Fishers, and how glad he was that it didn’t cause an accident.  He was also glad no one can accuse him of driving around in a high-priced fancy city vehicle.

Then the mayor turned to me and asked me what the biggest story has been since I started covering news here in Fishers?  I didn’t need to think long about that one.  It was the 2012 referendum when Fishers voters decided we should be a second class city with a strong mayor’s office.

Mayor Fadness responded the the most important issue he has seen in his time with Fishers was the Geist annexation.  I followed that story as a citizen but it predates LarryInFishers.com.

I had already made some opening remarks before dinner about volunteerism, but it was time for me to introduce the mayor.  That’s always a tough thing to do, so I tried to make light of the areas where the mayor and I are not alike (for example, he’s tall, I’m short) and kidded about our mutual love for drinking Diet Coke.

But I did want to emphasize that, leaving any policy differences aside, the mayor and I have one very important thing in common – we both love this community and the people in this community.  That’s why I’m a volunteer blogger and that’s why Scott Fadness ran for mayor.

When the mayor took to the podium,  he did something I did not expect.  He talked about how my work is in the spirit of volunteerism and how I had tried to fill the reporting gap about public policy issues in Fishers, and I received a round of applause from the crowd.

The mayor was very kind to extend that sort of praise to me.  He hasn’t liked every story I have written, but he respects they way I go about this blog, striving to be fair but occasionally calling it as I see it.

When I was approached about being the emcee for the first volunteer recognition banquet, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.  But I was nervous then, just like I was this year.  Thankfully, I got through the event without falling on my face.

Congratulations to all the volunteers honored at this year’s banquet.  Every volunteer is important and the City of Service Awards is a very special way for all of us to honor volunteers.

Special recognition is in order for Tony Elliot and Dan Domsic from the Parks and Recreation Department.  They put together a very special City of Service event.

Since this blog is a volunteer effort for me, I had some soul searching to do a few months ago.  My wife Jane was prepared to retire and I was looking at everything I do, which includes volunteer activities beyond this news blog.

Should I continue writing this blog?  Should I continue attending all these local meetings, most not covered by any other reporter?

I was leaning toward ending this blog.  I have been doing this for six years, hoping someone or some entity might start a commercial operation to provide news to local residents in a timely manner.  But six years came and went and nothing of the sort has surfaced.  It’s a symptom of how tough it is to  make money in news these days.  The public is more interested in consuming news products than ever, but technology has made it harder to find a money-making model that makes sense to deliver news, particularly on the local level.

After floating that idea of ending the blog, I couldn’t believe the messages I received in just a few hours after that post.  People I know, many I have never met, pleaded with me to continue.  I must be honest, I never expected the flood of comments that came in asking me to keep going.

So, here I am.  Just a word of warning….I am not getting any younger so I cannot do this forever, but I have made a promise to myself I will at least continue this blog through the municipal elections of 2019.  I’m not saying I’ll close shop then, I just want to keep going at least that long.

I’ve never shared the data I am about to give you publicly, but I will because it is amazing to me.  When I started this blog in January of 2012 I thought a few government policy nerds like myself would care to read this little blog.  I never expected to see the numbers I am about to show you now.

According to my Google Analytics data, just under 30,000 individual people have accessed LarryInFishers.com on at least one occasion dduring the past year.  During that same time period, there have been over 156,000 page views, meaning there have been more than 156,000 times a person has accessed one part of my news blog.  These are numbers I could never imagine in 2012 for a locally-focused news blog.

Then there is my podcast series which began in February, 2016.  In the past year, there have been just under 13,000 occasions where someone has taken the time to listen to most or all of a podcast I have produced.  Over the past two years, I have produced more than 200 individual podcasts and over 20,000 times someone has listened to one of those podcasts.

I cannot believe these numbers.  The podcasts were originally designed to give people doing important work locally to sit down and talk at length about their work.  That continues to be a focus of my podcast series that has expanded.

I still do the Arts&Fishers podcasts, which features reviews of films, television programs and local arts events. I tried a daily series on taxes, but that died for lack of interest.

Then I met Adam Aasen at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast event and he had listened to some of my film reviews, and it turns out we are both movie buffs.  One thing led to another, and we now are on our 9th month of producing a weekly podcast about film, Hamilton County Goes To The Movies.

This news blog has also led to some other writing opportunities for me.  There have been periods of time the editor of Current in Fishers has asked me to write commentaries and I have done that (although keeping them at 320 words or less has been a challenge).

I have had some wonderful opportunities to write for the Indianapolis Business Journal, including an Op-Ed piece during our first mayoral election in Fishers, and writing commentaries for their Indiana Forefront opinion blog (since discontinued).

I also appreciate my relationship with Jeff Jellison and his Hamilton County Reporter newspaper.  We have a news-gathering partnership that has been working well for both of us.  Our partnership means I will post stories from The Reporter and he is free to publish my blog material in his publication.

This has been quite a ride and the mayor is right to say I have a nerdish interest in local public policy that motivates me to continue writing this blog.  But the most important reason I continue is because of you, those of you taking the time to read my blog posts.  Thank you for reading.  And please keep reading and listening to my podcasts.

In the meantime, I will continue to reflect daily on what its like to live in Fishers.  It is a much different place compared to when I moved here in 1991.  And change is inevitable.  At least for now, I plan to be here and cover it.

 

Fred Swift’s Look At News Around Hamilton County

by

Fred Swift

Hamilton County Reporter

The Indiana Transportation Museum (ITM) has begun disposing of some of its surplus railroad equipment from its Forest Park location. The museum has informed other museums and collectors that certain items are available for sale. ITM was asked by city officials to vacate the park where the museum, now operating in Logansport, had its home for more than 40 years.

* * *

Former Noblesville High School basketball coach David McCullough was unsuccessful last month in a lawsuit for damages against Noblesville Schools. A jury in Circuit Court found for the schools in the court action where McCullough claimed unspecified damages as a result of his dismissal as coach and subsequent statements by school officials.

* * *

The 140-year-old former home of nationally acclaimed artist and illustrator Franklin Booth is for sale. Located at 321 N. Range Line Road in Carmel, Booth, who worked with James Whitcomb Riley, had a career in New York, but returned to Carmel in the summer where he had a studio behind the Range Line Road home. He created artwork for various national magazines and corporations as well as illustrations for some of Riley’s works. The Italianate style frame house is priced at $499,000.

* * *

Republican candidates for the Hamilton County Council in the upcoming May 8 primary will speak Feb. 21 at the County GOP Breakfast Club. The event will be held at the Bridgewater Clubhouse south of Westfield. Admission is $20 for non-members of the Breakfast Club.

* * *

Candidates for all offices on the primary ballot are expected at the Carmel Clay Republicans’ annual chili supper set for March 8. Indiana Superintendent of State Police Doug Carter will speak at the supper in the Hensel Township Building, 10701 College Ave. The 6 p.m. event is open to the public.

Hamilton County Commissioners Restrict Reserve Deputy Vehicles

by

Fred Swift

Hamilton County Reporter

Hamilton County Commissioners adopted an ordinance this week which, with certain exceptions, forbids off-duty or out-of-county use of county sheriff’s vehicles by unpaid reserve deputies. This includes driving to and from home.

Legally, Commissioners are custodians of all county property. The use of patrol cars by off-duty reserves has not been a general practice since a car was wrecked last year, but the policy needed to be in ordinance form, according to Commissioner Steve Dillinger.

There are circumstances in which a reserve deputy may use a county car beyond regular patrol duties in the county.

Under the ordinance a sheriff’s department car may be used in performance of law enforcement duties out of the county when authorized by the department.

No passengers shall be allowed to ride in the patrol car unless it is required due to the deputy’s law enforcement duties.

A car may be used when a uniformed reserve officer is authorized to do security duty or traffic control within the county, and a record shall be kept by the department of these activities.

The ordinance also provides that the sheriff shall advise commissioners of the number of cars assigned for use by reserves and identifying information of those vehicles.

The new ordinance took effect upon passage Feb. 12.

Royals Lose in Overtime At Pike

Hamilton County Reporter

Hamilton Southeastern got off to a big start at Pike on Saturday, but the Red Devils chipped away at the lead, and eventually beat the Royals in overtime 64-62.

Class 4A No. 10 Southeastern led 22-10 after the first quarter before Pike came back to within 32-28 at halftime. The Royals built their lead back to 49-40 going into the fourth period, but the Red Devils outscored them 19-10 in that quarter to force overtime.

Nick Bowman had an outstanding game, with 24 points (including five 3-pointers), six assists and four steals. Noah Smith scored 12 points and Aaron Etherington had 10; both also handed out four assists. Mabor Majak had nine points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.

The Royals are 17-6 and finish their regular season Tuesday at Lawrence North.