INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Public Safety Director Troy Riggs has ordered the troubled Regional Operations Center, site of Indianapolis Division of Homeland Security and IMPD’s East District, to be immediately evacuated.
Riggs is frustrated by the workmanship and safety problems that have bedeviled the ROC since before it was opened in time for the Super Bowl in 2012.
As documented by Fox 59 News, the ROC’s fire safety system was seriously compromised without sprinklers and detectors that forced IFD to spend tens of thousands of dollars of overtime to staff the site with fire inspectors 24/7.
Structurally walls and plumbing were continually issues as employees complained about air quality.
A source tells Fox 59 News that Riggs is “infuriated” with the “boondoggle” he inherited upon his arrival last October.
“I am extremely disappointed,” said Riggs. “Taxpayers spent a lot of money to have a Regional Operations Center. I cannot have people in this facility if it has been deemed unsafe by both the Department of Code Enforcement and our fire department.”
Previous Public Safety Director Frank Straub, with the approval of Mayor Greg Ballard and the City-County Council, pushed for relocating key police and public safety offices at the site of the former Eastgate Consumer Mall at Shadeland Avenue and Washington Street.
The mall had been largely abandoned for 20 years and open to the elements.
Straub envisioned a command center to house the city’s emergency management services as well as district police officers, covert, plainclothes and special operations and Homeland Security.
As the title Regional Operations Center indicates, Straub expected surrounding communities would utilize the ROC, assign personnel there in the event of an incident and help underwrite the cost.
It never happened.
Instead, the city signed a 20-year lease agreement that commits Indianapolis to approximately $20 million in payments and precludes the Department of Public Safety from relocating its personnel to another leased site.
Riggs instead is reassigning officers to the IMPD Training Academy on the east side and Homeland Security employees to a back-up center at Indianapolis International Airport if necessary.
Last winter, Riggs directed his staff to develop a list of more than 100 items with the owner of the building for immediate improvement. The list has now been narrowed to 50 issues.
Recent inspections by city crews have indicated ongoing problems and lack of solutions to “critical life issues.”
The wholesale evacuation of the building reveals there will be no piecemeal solution to the ROC’s defects, said the source, but rather an opportunity to flood the site with city crews to do a top-to-bottom examination of the flaws and potential code violations.
“This is something, quite rankly, would have been ongoing if we did not put a team together. We found this issue. We’re working to resolve it. We will get it resolved,” said Riggs.
Last December the city began sending its monthly payments to developer Alex Carroll to an escrow account to force compliance with workmanship problems.
The source said that the developer may have been responding to design changes mandated by Straub. The building has never been utilized to its full intended potential, leaving thousands of square feet of site unused and yet paid for.
There was a push to open the building before construction was completed in time to replace the city’s cramped Emergency Operations Center in the MECA headquarters with the expansive ROC which included offices for the FBI in time for the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, 2012.
IMPD East District officers saw their assignment to the ROC from their previous headquarters on North Shadeland Avenue pushed back a number of times until mid-2012.
Cosmetically, the site appears to be a block building, surrounded by concrete barriers, with no external signage to identify it to neighbors as an IMPD headquarters.
Once inside, visitors are unable to communicate with front desk personnel who sit behind a solid glass window.
The city will continue to pay rent to an escrow account until everything is resolved. It is currently paying $57,000 a month for the next 10 years. It will cost $63,000 a month for the remaining 15 years.