Writer / Janelle Morrison
During our quarterly review with Mayor Jim Brainard, the 6-term mayor shared with us the many benchmarks that the city has achieved or will achieve year’s end.
Keeping our public defenders safe is high on the city’s list of priorities and once again was awarded a federal grant for almost $9,000 to replace old bullet proof vests that are no longer covered under warranty and cost $695 each to replace. The city has received this particular grant since 1999.
Brainard has taken great measures over the last 5 terms to improve the city’s environmental health. The city of Carmel was acknowledged just last month on the popular website, Think Progress, for its round-a-bouts and plans for 30 additional round-a-bouts that will decrease overall car emissions and electricity for traffic lights by 40% by 2040 (Think Progress, September, 15, 2015).
The city’s street projects are well on schedule in spite of several rain dates this spring and summer. INDOT has worked diligently to have the majority of work completed on Carmel’s stretch of U.S. 31 within their original 2-year time line.
“I’m optimistic that they (INDOT) will have all of the traffic lanes open and landscaping to completed by next spring,” Brainard said. “In spite of several wet weather days this construction season that impacted their schedule, they seem to be moving along very quickly and it’s going to be a beautiful project when it’s finished. The city’s street projects are coming along very well. We’ve opened the sections of Main Street, both east and west of U.S. 31. Now, we have our beautiful round-a-bout interchange and it’s handling a lot of traffic already. We were happy to have Illinois Street opened in September.”
A hot topic during the primaries earlier this
year, Brainard gave us an update on the 96th Street and Keystone Avenue project.
“There is a series of steps that have to be accomplished before any major transportation project begins and the city is working through them. The funding, in addition to the design work, is a step that we’ve already taken and the county has granted us a $2 million dollar grant for this project. We are working on a plan to obtain the remaining funding needed and upon completion of this phase, we hope to see construction begin in the summer of 2017. It can be done in one season and without closing the entire intersection.
Recently, Brainard was in Washington D.C. to meet with the Assistant Secretary of Transportation and other officials of the White House for the purpose of applying for infrastructure grant. These are very competitive grants to receive and only about 2-3% of all applications are actually awarded as there is limited funding available. After several meetings over the months with transportation officials, Brainard feels that Carmel has a more than fair shot of getting a this federal grant.
“We will end this term with a tremendously improved transportation system in Carmel, ” Brainard stated. “I think we’re getting closer to the year where we can look seriously at connecting a tram or street car system in the center part of the city to get people back and forth without having to use their personal vehicle. This will help with our parking demands a lot. We launched a bike-share program in April where we have 7 stations where people can pick up a bicycle. We’re talking to apartment complexes, Clay Terrace and other neighborhoods so that people can use and enjoy this service for a reasonable fee and is another service that makes Carmel even more exciting and attractive to our residents and guests. We chose the company Zagster, because they are the only company with a business model that allows the private sector to add their stations that are then totally integrated into the city system.”
The mayor announced that a major milestone for the city will be when the Hazel Dell bond is paid in full by the end of 2016. The city took the bond out in 1996 to build Hazel Dell Parkway and other major street projects and repairs. The cash flow will be available to the city and Brainard plans to repeat a proven model and use the cash flow to get projects into place and completed.
As the recession is well in the rear view mirror, Brainard emphasized that corporations continue to look as Carmel as potential headquarters and that announcements about new businesses, relocations and job opportunities are forthcoming.
As the job market continues to grow so do new developments that bring more residents. The development located at 116th and Spring Mill Road, Jackson’s Grant on Williams Creek is one of the limited remaining open fields that are left to develop in Carmel.
Brainard spoke about the development and how the developer and planning members are taking great care to ensure that it becomes another esthetic marvel that Carmel has become renowned for.
As we approve development plans for each of the remaining prospective developments, residential or commercial, it is important that they are designed and completed appropriately for the sake of the existing neighborhoods and developments surrounding them,” Brainard concluded. “Reflecting back, we have had another prosperous year in our city and we are looking forward to all that is to come in 2016.”