Kokomo told to remove dirt from stadium construction site

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KOKOMO, Ind. (March 18, 2015) -- There is another issue in the ongoing battle with Kokomo’s new baseball stadium project. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) now says Kokomo needs to remove fill dirt that they placed on the site to even out the land. Doing so would essentially undo the work they have done to try to build the stadium.

On the site today, just off Union Street, there are signs of a stadium. You can pick out the facade and the building of the bleachers. There's also a lot of dirt.

"Fill dirt was brought in and spread over the entire area if you will," said Beth Garrison, Kokomo's City Attorney.

Fill dirt is what is holding up the project now. The Kokomo stadium debate has been going on since last year. The city purchased the land using FEMA grant money in the late 1990s and early 2000s and there were only certain things that could go up on the land. A stadium is not one of them. FEMA also says that land floods easily because of its close proximity to the Wildcat River. The city started construction anyway.

"The city provided documentation to IDHS back in late October from an outside contractor," Garrison said. "That proved that the project as a whole would actually improve flood mitigation in that area."

During the construction process, fill dirt was placed on the land, including six specific spots that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said no to. That is another thing that makes this project non-compliant, and because of that, FEMA cut $6 million in hazard mitigation funding to the state. Now, IDHS, which gives the funding to the different localities, says that fill dirt needs to be removed.

"Is it possible for Kokomo to redesign the stadium so that those parcels are in compliance, if an agreement is reached between DHS if the issue is strictly fill dirt, then absolutely the city can do that," Garrison said.

The courts are now involved after the city of Kokomo filed a lawsuit against Homeland Security trying to say they are, in fact, compliant.

For now, construction continues on the stadium except on those specific parcels that are in question. Whether or not it gets finished will likely have to be determined by a judge.

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