The Nickel Plate Trail: Facts Versus Fictions

Last year, the City of Fishers approved a tax increase for the Nickel Plate Trail construction. This tax was expected to raise somewhere between $7 and $9 million dollars that can be used toward constructing the trial. Additionally, the City of Fishers released a master plan for the trail that showed numerous amenities that could be included with the trail. With the tax in place and being collected and a “plan” having been created, where do things stand? What are the facts on the trail today?

Before digging deeper into where things stand today, it is important to make a few clarifications.

First, if you review the master plan, you will note that it indicates that it is a twenty-one-year plan. This time window is not always clearly stated in meetings nor when the trail amenities are discussed. If you look at the plan and see art, LED screens, sitting areas, fountains, gardens, and other features, you should understand that these could take up to 21 years to provide. The master plan unfortunately is void of any breakdown of dates or costs for the specific items that are illustrated.

What should also be clarified is what is meant by the Nickel Plate Trail. In this case, the Nickel Plate Trail is the new trail that is expected to be built where the Nickel Plate railroad tracks previously existed. This is not the Nickel Plate Trail currently found in Cheeney Creek in Fishers. It also is not the trail identified as the Nickel Plate Trail in the 2040 plan released by the City in 2016. My understanding is that the Nickel Plate Trail identified in the 2040 city plan is now being called the Conner Trail.

Where Do Things Stand Today?

Today, the process of building the trail has started. Most of the rails have been removed and a rocky dirt path stands where they had been located. This city had taken bids for the removal. They chose the one company that agreed to pay to do the removal work in exchange for keeping the removed materials. The company did, however, include a waver that they would not remove the rails at the intersections because of the added cost of making repairs to roads and such.

The Nickel Plate Trail Today (131st Street)

The removal work has been done. What is worth noting is that a city board member indicated that the hundreds of thousands that the city will receive from this are not going to build the trail. Rather those funds are being given away as a donation.

To sum up where things stand today, taxes are being collected, fees are being received, and the rails are removed.

Funding the Next Step

It is important to note that the tax increase done by the city of Fishers was an increase to the property tax rate. This means that it doesn’t just get collected the first year, but it gets collected until the City removes it. The $7 to $9 million gets collected this year, next year, the following year, and so on until the city reduces the tax rate. Of course, there is nothing that I am aware of that requires the city to use the increase for the trail beyond the first year, so there is no reason to expect it will ever go away. 

One of the things the city did this past year to try to reduce cost of the trail was to apply for grants. Unfortunately, Fishers did not get the grants that they targeted. My understanding is that those funds ended up going to other places such as Indianapolis projects. The city is planning to continue to apply for additional grants. I was told that there is a plan to solicit the state for a grant to help with the trail that would be on a much larger scale and could include Noblesville and Indianapolis. Should such grants be received, that would reduce the local tax cost for residents or possibly speed up the delivering of some of the amenities.

Back in February, the Indianapolis Star reported that the initial funds from the tax increase would be used to build the first phase of the trail including amenities such as bathrooms, water fountains, landscaping and art. This first phase is expected to be the section of trail from 106th Street to 126th Street and would include an underpass on 116th Street. There were two other phases that have now been combined, which would be the trail sections from 96th Street to 106th Street and from 126th Street to 146th Street.

What’s Next for the Nickel Plate Trail Plan?

With a new tax increase in place, the funds should be ready to start constructing the trail. Being that it is now Fall, a city official indicated to me that construction will likely not start until the Spring.

The city put out RFPs for the first phase of construction and was working with three companies. The result is that they now have a cost projection for phase one to be approximately $5.5 million and phase 2 to be $2 million.  

This is higher than the initial rough cost estimates presented a couple of years ago of just over $4.2 million for the entire Fishers segment. The good news is that this totals within expected range for the first year of new tax dollars and gives funds for both phases of the trail. That should cover the basic trail clear across the city of Fishers.

I was told that part of what kept the first phase number lower ($5.5 versus $7 to $9 million) is the expected cost of the underpass at 116th Street. The city council member indicated that per the proposals received, this construction is expected to cost under $3 million. 

But…

When the numbers come in lower than expected for a city project, you must start asking questions. Often there is a “but” that needs to be explored.

In this case, I’ve been told that what is being built is just the trail. No amenities, no connections to existing trails, and no other features beyond the asphalt trail and the underpass at 116th Street. All the sizzle or bells and whistles are future items to be addressed at additional costs.

For those living down the road from the future trail on 106th or 131st Street, there will not be new connecting sidewalks that get you to the trail. That is future stuff.

Some of the trail amenities shown in the NPT Plan

So Much Promised, so Little Planned….

The NPT plan promises a lot of amenities. Expectations are high on what the trail features are going to include. The only items that have been truly planned, however, is the basic asphalt trail. While amenities have been listed and while there is a list of ideas wanted (and called a plan), there are not priorities set, there is no order set, and there are no timelines set. More importantly, even though they’ve been identified, there are no cost estimates associated with the amenities and tasks to help create a working plan.

Having said that, by the time the asphalt is laid for the initial two phases, the city should be on their second or third year of collecting the new taxes. If the money remains allocated for the trial, then there should be plenty of money to add connections to the trail and start building amenities. In fact, if the tax is never rolled off and the plan truly takes 21 years to build, then (ignoring increased assessed values and new homes) the city should have working capital of between $147 and $189 million to put against the trail. That should be enough to provide a lot of sizzle to the trail.

In Conclusion…

The trail has started and the rails are mostly gone. People are walking the existing path, which should turn to asphalt next year. It is great that the city is looking for grants and other means to offset the cost. The city has, however, also increased our taxes to build this trail. It is important that we, the residents, hold the city accountable for spending the increased in the manner they promised, and that we require the city to eliminate the tax increase when the funds are no longer being use for the trail as promised.

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Do you know how many parks are already in Fishers? Do you know what amenities already exist? We have some fantastic parks! Order a copy of my book from Amazon and not only will see the variety of parks, but you can have fun doing the “Find the difference” puzzles! Purchasing a copy helps offset my blogging costs and supports a small, local publisher!

Buy a copy: Amazon

Happening in Your Town: Kids Locked in Rooms in Public Buildings

It is happening across America and people are not saying a word. Kids are being taken to public buildings and locked in rooms. Kids are taken from neighborhoods and shipped to public buildings at various locations within towns. Once there they are forced to follow rules that include separating them by their ages and marching them into rooms. In many cases the kids are forced to sit for upward of an hour with no access to electronics, food, or their parents.

The rooms where the kids are kept are often locked to prevent others from getting access to the kids. In addition to the locked rooms, the buildings are also often secured to the level that nobody without security clearance is allowed to get into the building and see the kids.

While kids are allowed a meal in the middle of each day, they are forced to follow rules while eating. This includes only having a limited time to get and eat their food before being forced back to the locked rooms.

The US Government is funding is funding this.

Do you believe kids should be locked up like this?

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Perspective is a wonderful thing; however, it is easy to twist….

Safety in Fishers: A Failure to Learn From…

Larry Lannon reported on the nice crowd that attended the safety day at Fishers yesterday that occurred on the Eastern side of town. For anyone on the West side of Fishers on September 7th between 6:00 and 11:00pm, you have to wonder if safety had been considered.

With 11,000+ people merging into a two lane road with near non-existent traffic control, safety seemed to be lost. Fortunately, it didn’t seem that anything went wrong.

But what if something had happened?

Cars within the last couple of miles were reporting speeds of roughly an hour per mile to get into Conner Prairie. With cars being bumper-to-bumper, blocking intersections, and turning right from the left lanes it is easy to say that traffic was likely the worst Fishers has ever seen. Having gotten caught in the traffic, plus having lived across from Conner Prairie for over two decades, I can say it was the worst traffic I had ever seen for them.

What if a firetruck or rescue truck had needed to get to one of the houses across from Conner Prairie in several of the divisions whose only access is from Allisonville Road? What if a firetruck had needed to get to Conner Prairie. Could it have?

Last night’s event at Conner Prairie should be an eye opener for Fishers police, fire, and political parties as far as insuring the safety of Fishers residents and guests that come to our town. There are no plans in the Fishers 2040 plan to change the road in front of Conner Prairie from two lanes to four. There are no other major access roads other than going through an older neighborhood that is always blocked with parked cars to where a single car can barely get through, let along traffic going two directions or a fire engine.

While the neighborhoods around Conner Prairie deserve an apology, I believe the more important thing is that the city needs to make sure that if future crowds are going to converge on Conner Prairie – or any other location in Fishers – that it is done in a manner that allows for the safety of the residents to be kept at top priority. This includes making sure emergency vehicles have a way to get to any of the locations in or around the park.

On a related note…..

On a related note, there has been a trend for Fishers Police to shut down North bound Allisonville Road at 131st Street when they are letting out the traffic at Conner Prairie. For those people living off of Allisonville Road and south of 141st Street, this means you are redirected away from your home. This isn’t for an accident, but rather to make it easier to let the people at Conner Prairie leave at the expense of making it harder for residents of Fishers to get home.

Why?

Why is Conner Prairie get favoritism over tax paying residents of the city?

The irony of course, is that this traffic control happens after a concert; it doesn’t happen before when it is really needed more.

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Yowza Publishing’s Fourth Release: Spot the Difference in Fishers, Indiana

The release of Yowza Publishing’s fourth title is now complete. You can get Spot the Difference in Fishers, Indiana: City Parks Edition on Amazon today! This marks the fourth book published by Yowza Publishing and the first full-color book.

In Spot the Difference in Fishers, Indiana (Spot) you not only get to learn a little bit about the city parks that are within Fishers, Indiana, but you also get to also have a bit of fun. For each of the parks shown in the book, you are given two pictures that are very similar. The first picture is a real picture of the park. The second picture is the same picture; however, a few changes have been made and it is up to you to find those changes. Each park follows a similar layout, which includes a few extra pictures as well as an indicator for the number of differences you should be able to find:

Spot the Difference

Most cities have parks. These includes city parks as well as neighborhood and other private parks. Fishers, however, has a large number of city parks relative to the size of the city. There are two parks that include sledding hills. There are several parks that have fishing lakes as well as a couple of locations to fish in the White River. Several of the parks boast athletics including baseball diamonds, basketball courts, soccer fields, and football fields. There are also pickle ball courts as well as Frisbee/disk golf courses. One park has “off road” biking trails that wind through the woods as well as tree houses. There is a splash-pad in one park. There are docks and a public beach as well as a ton of playgrounds ranging from simple swings to complex contraptions such as those shown in the picture above.

There are two new parks being developed in Fishers. The irony is that both are easy to confuse with existing parks. One will be the Nickel Plate Trail linear park that will replace the existing Nickel Plate Railroad tracks. This is not to be confused with the existing Nickel Plate Trail that is a part of Cheeny Creak Nature Park. The other will be the Geist Waterfront park, not to be confused with the existing Geist Park that features trails, bird-watching, access to Fall Creak and Geist Reservoir.

If you are wanting to know what parks are around Fishers, this book will quickly give you a glimpse. As our newest book, we hope you enjoy it!

Buy the book now: Amazon

Mental Health Awareness in Fishers – An Update on Stigma Free Fishers

You Matter

As part of the Stigma Free Fishers initiative, data is now being collected so as to better understand what is happening in our community. Per the report, prior to 2016 there was not access to clean data that could be used in regard to behavioral health incidents. Since the start of the initiative in 2016, the Fishers Fire and Emergency Services Department and the Fishers Police Department have worked to ensure accurate data. In addition to the public service organizations, Hamilton Southeastern Schools have also been a part of the initiative as have businesses and other organizations.

The City of Fishers along with a number of organizations has taken on a mental health initiative. Back in May, they released a community report on the initiative.

From the data collected, it has been seen that there has been a decrease in disciplinary action in the schools as well as a decrease in the number of missed school days. Additionally, there has been an increase in the average GPA within the district.

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the State of Indiana. The first year of tracking in 2016 saw 11 suicides in the area (Fishers). This increased to 14 in 2017, before decreasing to 10 in 2018. With more than 9 million people pondering the idea of suicide, it is core focus for mental health well-being.

Unfortunately, while 2017 saw a huge decrease in the need for immediate detentions dropping to 138 from 191 in 2016, in 2018 this went back up to 197.

Several initiatives have been happening to try to reduce the numbers even further. These initiatives include promoting the #StigmaFreeFishers through social media and other locations. An evidence-based suicide prevention lesson has been taught to over 1,757 eighth-grade students. Four student clubs have been created, which include the Bring Change to Mind at Fishers High School and Hamilton Southeastern High School. The Calm Squad was created at Fall Creek Elementary. These are in addition to other groups that already existed with a focus on acceptance and related topics. The schools are also providing mental health services when need, which have been used by nearly 100 students.

The following video summarizes a lot of the data and results from the initiative. This includes the HSE School results:

To stay informed on the Fishers Mental Health Initiatives, you can sign up on the Stigma Free Fishers site.

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