To Whom It May Concern:
I was disappointed to read the letter from Logansport Mayor Dave Kitchell in the Noblesville Times calling out the City of Noblesville and my leadership for our supposed handling of the situation with the Indiana Transportation Museum in Forest Park.
It’s disappointing on many levels – but let’s just stick to the facts – which Mayor Kitchell seems to be short on. He says, “the city has retained attorneys to figuratively ‘bleed the museum dry’ with the excuse that they are merely paying more for a railyard clean-up at Forest Park.”
Perhaps Mayor Kitchell should ask the ITM board of directors and their Save the Nickel Plate friends to stop filing so many lawsuits – then the city wouldn’t have to retain attorneys on this matter. In 2017 alone, ITM filed two federal lawsuits against Noblesville, all of which were thrown out. In 2018, while the city was offering ITM an exit plan with a June 2019 deadline that would give them more than a year to move out, ITM filed two more lawsuits against the City. Since then, Save the Nickel Plate has filed an additional lawsuit against the city, Fishers and Hamilton County.
It should be no surprise then why ITM was no longer a welcomed tenant in Forest Park. Feel free to visit our website which details the troubled history of ITM in our community, and then decide for yourself.
ITM’s Troubled History Within Forest Park: https://bit.ly/2NXFgGX
This information details two decades worth of Noblesville Parks Board meeting minutes, which show how our volunteer members of the parks board, as well as parks staff and city officials, gave ITM decades of chances to fulfill promises and address problems in Forest Park where they had operated virtually rent-free since the 1960s. The suggestion that the city sought ITM’s demise is a disservice to these public officials who have dealt with the ITM situation for years, and who must now address the legal and environmental issues left in its wake.
Yes, the environmental issues are a very real concern.
After months of investigation of ITM by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, a Notice of Violation and Proposed Agreed Order by the State of Indiana was submitted in April that reconfirmed again that ITM improperly managed chemicals, hazardous waste and other potentially harmful items at Forest Park. In its agreed order earlier this month, IDEM issued a $25,312 fine against ITM for its environmental violations and handling of hazardous waste materials. The city expects a report from IDEM on the property later this year so we can determine what clean-up work will be necessary going forward and at what cost.
Even before this investigation began, ITM leadership had for many years squandered its opportunity as the sole operator of the Nickel Plate Railroad in Noblesville through questionable management, failed efforts and empty promises. This is not to say that all of the volunteers who gave of their own time over the years for ITM should not be commended. It is the respect for these volunteers that allowed ITM to remain at Forest Park for so long despite continuing and growing problems. But memories of what once was cannot cloud our vision of what it really had become, or how much better for our community it can be.
As for the City of Noblesville, we are confident that our community’s rail history has a solid future. We have welcomed the new excursion train operator, the Nickel Plate Express. The level of cooperation from their professional staff has already been a breath of fresh air. While we have much work to do, Noblesville residents will someday soon thrill to the sound of trains rumbling through Forest Park. And Mayor Kitchell can go back to focusing on his own vision for Logansport.
Sincerely,
Mayor John Ditslear
City of Noblesville