Major safety code violations found at Indianapolis $18M operations center

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The city's new $18 million operations center at the old Eastgate Mall is under a fire watch tonight.

13 Investigates has learned, despite major safety code violations, the facility opened for the Super Bowl a year ago.

"Get all the bugs out of the system, tweak everything. We're looking at January 16th as we're ready to go," said Frank Straub, the city's former public safety director, in December 2011.

Forty-three days before the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, Straub promised the Regional Operations Center, known as the ROC would open. But a visit from city code inspectors and the fire marshal found the facility with a questionable alarm and fire protection system in place for the $18 million facility.

Stop work orders were issued and a "fire watch" was declared back in October.

13 Investigates asked if employees were in any danger.

"I don't feel they're in danger because we have a fire watch out there," said Fred Pervine, city fire marshal.

Fire watch means an Indianapolis firefighter - at a cost of $35 per hour - must walk the grounds 24 hours a day, seven days a week to watch for and report a possible fire. That's $840 a day.

Based on our calculations, that's more than $75,000 for "fire watch" to date, and the public is asked to go elsewhere.

The fire marshal says shutting down IMPD East District which is housed in the ROC is out of the question.

"There's nowhere we could just pick them up and move them somewhere else. Logistically that would be a nightmare. It's easier and cost effective to do things right now they way we're doing them," said Chief Pervine.

Sources tell 13 Investigates the building doesn't even have drinking fountains for the staff. Glass windows prevent easy communication between staff in different parts of the building.

According to the 39-page lease deal, the 25-year lease just began and requires the city to pay rent whether the construction is completed or not.

13 Investigates wanted to know who approved the opening for the Super Bowl and $18 million for a building that wasn't ready yet.

Jonathan Mayes was the former deputy director and special counsel for the Department of Public Safety. He left the city after the Super Bowl in July 2011 and declined comment on the deal for the ROC, saying, "I was in the office at that time, up to a certain point. I worked on that project and was removed by Director Straub. Straub completed the negotiation and closed that deal."

Straub is now awaiting confirmation as the police chief in Spokane, Washington and did not return our calls.

For now, IFD will keep watching and the price tag will keep rising.

"The fire department has billed the property owner, so we are expecting to get compensated for the fire watch," said Chief Pervine.

The fire marshal says IFD has invoiced just $55,000 so far and will be sending that bill to owner Alex Carroll. We left messages for Carroll this afternoon seeking comment.