Councilman calls for Regional Operations Center investigation

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Councilman Joseph Simpson, a democrat representing Indianapolis’ north side, is calling for an investigation into the 25-year deal that commits the city of Indianapolis to pay $18 million to lease the Regional Operations Center.

“I also expect the committee which will have subpoena power to look into all other agreements related to the ROC lease,” Simpson told the council’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee, “in order to find out whether the city made other formal/informal commitments and whether the information provided to the council in April of 2011 was complete or accurate.”

During that year, in advance of Super Bowl XLVII at Lucas Oil Stadium, the city of Indianapolis committed to the NFL and federal authorities that it would headquarter game-day security operations of out a Regional Operations Center on the site of the former Eastgate Consumer Mall on North Shadeland Avenue.

On January 25, 2012, eleven days before the Super Bowl, Mayor Greg Ballard and then-Public Safety Director Frank Straub opened the ROC, proudly announcing its unique role in providing a base for local, state and federal operations not only during the game but also in the event of other natural or terrorist incidents.

From the start, operations were delayed and troubled at the building on the city’s east side.

The move-in date of IMPD’s East District Headquarters was repeatedly delayed. Last December the city delivered a punch list of more than 100 items that detailed workmanship, operations or safety shortcomings. Nearly a month ago Straub’s successor, Troy Riggs, announced he was pulling 150 employees out of the building over concerns about fire safety.

Alex Carroll, the owner of the building, told Fox 59 News that city and its leaders have only themselves to blame.

“It was Frank Straub in conjunction with Mayor Ballard,” said Carroll. “The mayor knew exactly what Frank’s vision was. Its one of the reasons he said he hired Frank Straub.”

Carroll said the project was plagued with design changes and cost overruns.

“All you ever heard was, ‘We don’t have any money,’ so, we did the best we could with them.”

Carroll said city code and fire inspectors signed off on the work up to and after the department of public safety took possession of the building.

“The lease says everything is their responsibility, so, I shouldn’t have to do maintenance on it.

“The city is responsible for utilities. The city is responsible for all maintenance. The city is responsible for absolutely everything that goes on inside and outside the immediate building.”

On the day the ROC was opened, Straub said that exterior improvements were promised.

“Mr. Carroll, who is the owner of the property that we are leading from, there is a plan so the concrete barriers that you see there will be, I believe, a brick façade upon the outside of those. There is actually then a metal decorative metal fence type of thing that will go on top of that. There’s plantings. The surfaces will be repaved so it will look much different.”

To date there are no improvements to the concrete barriers surrounding the site or landscaping or exterior signage.

The parking lot has been resurfaced.

Simpson intends to introduce his resolution calling for an investigative committee October 14th, the night the full council votes on Mayor Ballard’s nearly $1 billion city budget for 2014.

Nearly half of the budget will be spent on public safety.

Should the democrat-dominated council approve the investigation, it may examine campaign finance records that show Carroll has been a longtime GOP campaign contributor, giving nearly $70,000 in donations to republican organizations and candidates since 1997, including the Ballard for Mayor campaign.

Carroll gave $600 to Ballard in 2010.

The developer told Fox 59 News in September he intended to sue the city for $1 million in cost overruns and expenses he’s incurred maintaining and working on the building.

No lawsuit has yet been filed.

Riggs told Fox 59 News he is hopeful an agreement can be reached by the first of the year to address fire safety concerns and workmanship issues so that police officers, homeland security staff and civilian employees can return to their offices.

Carroll thinks those workers could move back in tomorrow.

“The only thing that keeps them from coming back is driving back.

“To the very best of my knowledge, there are no critical life safety issues in that building.”