City withholds rent money for Regional Operations Center
The City of Indianapolis is withholding its rent money from the owner of the former Eastgate Mall.
13 Investigates first exposed the lease deal and the thousands of dollars being spent daily for a fire watch because of troubling safety violations.
Now, for the first time, the city is allowing our cameras to inspect the construction flaws up close as it takes stop gap actions to cover the building and the lease.
13 Investigates ventured inside the ROC with the Homeland Security Chief, where a punchlist of nearly 100 fixes are required, starting in the hallway connecting IMPD East District and the Regional Operations Center.
There we found cracked walls and uneven surfaces, some of them trip hazards beneath our feet.
"We know a portion of this building used to be a roadway that separated the mall into two halves. They constructed over that road and we're concerned that maybe they didn't do the proper sanding and make it smooth," said Assistant Public Safety Director Valerie Washington.
It's one of several major flaws the city wants the Eastgate Mall owners to repair.
So far the city says it's gotten a chilly reception similar to what we found in the hallway where the heating and air conditioning systems are not working properly. There's poor ventilation building-wide.
"Making sure that there's clean quality air coming in here for the police officers and staff that are here; this is really a big building so making sure the HVAC components are working properly are probably my number one concern," added Washington.
The city has confirmed it has NOT made its first monthly rent payment of $57,000, due January first.
Since October, the ROC has been on "fire watch" because of code violations with the fire and alarm systems. The alarm is now being properly monitored, but a firefighter still walks around looking for fire hazards 24/7.
At $35 an hour, it means the city is paying $840 a day for fire watch. Since October, that's more than $75,000 and counting.
Managing owner Alex Carroll claims the system is adequate and was approved by the FBI for last year's Super Bowl security.
"The FBI was going to not allow the Regional Operation Center to host Super Bowl security if they could not certify their sprinkler system," Carroll told 13 Investigates days ago.
Fred Pervine, the city fire marshal, says his standard is the State Fire Code.
"What comes from the state legally is what we support and what goes forward," said Pervine.
The city is billing Carroll for $55,000 in fire watch charges.
Although the lease deal signed by former Public Safety Director Frank Straub says, "ALL RISKS ARE TO BE BORNE BY (THE) TENANT," Washington says city code enforcement can file judgements against Carroll and she's recommending future protections for the city.
"By requiring the city council to review all leases, require a sign off by the office of corporation counsel, so I would propose changing some ordinances to have that extra layer of protection in there," explained Washington.
The managing owner of the property questions whether the city is in default after a late payment of 15 days.
But Washington says while late, the city is still within a grace period. She says the city has the money and is ready to put that $57,000 in an escrow account until the owners step up to acknowledge and make necessary improvements.