Council looks into ROC issues

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Frustration appears to be building among some members of the City-County Council.

They’re investigating problems at what’s called the ROC, the Regional Operations Center.

Indianapolis police and Homeland Security officials used the east side building as a control center when the Super Bowl was in Indianapolis. It retained similar duties, on a smaller scale, after the game. It also became a police station until safety concerns forced them out.

Members of a special council committee are trying to learn more about who approved the use of the building without correcting “life safety issues.”

“We have a building that is in flagrant violation when it comes to fire safety.  I’m trying to wrap my mind around this,” said City-County Councilor Vop Osili.

The city signed a development agreement for the property, the former Eastgate Mall, on March 18, 2011. The lease was signed on May 20, 2011.

The testimony at Monday night’s meeting indicated that promised improvements were not made to the property. Committee members were told of a five page “list of issues” after a tour of the ROC in June of 2012. That was followed, they were told, by “numerous deficiencies” identified in October of 2012.

Council members had objected to terms of the lease that required the city to pay rent of $57,000 a month for the building.

“It’s not just the lease. It’s much more than that,” said Democrat Angela Mansfield. “It’s really quite frightening.”

She said this investigation has shaken her faith in the people who led the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety at the time. The name of the former director, Frank Straub, was mentioned several times during the hearing.

Valerie Washington, deputy director of Public Safety said she has a feeling the lease “wasn’t well thought out.” The monthly rent forced IMPD to “re-prioritize” its spending. She said nothing was cut. But, the department was not able to make investments that would have helped officers.

Washington also said the department can return to the ROC when the life safety hazards are eliminated. And, during the testimony, she said the landlord has agreed to do the modifications at his cost.

“We want to be back into the building. The officers and personnel that work out there like being in that building. The neighborhood wants us back,” she said.

The concerns about those safety issues – and the lack of explanation for them – clearly irritates several members of the committee.

Osili, for example, asked that they subpoena documents that would answer such questions. That request failed on Monday night. But it’s likely to come up in another meeting.

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