The State of the Mayor’s Office in 2018.
Writer // Janelle Morrison
According to Zionsville Mayor Tim Haak, Zionsville has a lot going on this year and much to look forward to. From improvements to the town’s infrastructure and economic development to growth in both residential and commercial sectors, there is no question as to why people and businesses are attracted to this growing town that maintains its unique qualities. We sat down with Mayor Haak and discussed some of these issues along with others that he and his staff have been working on in recent months, and we asked him what his goals are in the immediate future.
Recently, Zionsville Road south of 96th was patched after commuters were forced to engage in a newly recognized sport known as the Pothole Dodging Prix. Did you reach out to Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett for resolution since this stretch of the road is Indianapolis’?
We started meeting with Indianapolis officials last November to discuss the importance of Zionsville Road and what it means to people who live in Zionsville and work in Indianapolis and vice versa. We also discussed the impact that the condition of the road was having on the Traders Point shopping area. Even though the responsibility is not Zionsville’s, we felt that it was important to reach out to Mayor Hogsett and the Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) and met with them a couple times. They understood what we were saying. It is important for our offices to communicate. We don’t compete. We’re partners, and we understand the importance of regionalism and working together.
How has it been working with the Zionsville Town Council President Josh Garrett and Vice President Bryan Traylor? Are the council and mayor’s office working well together in the sandbox?
The dialogue has been amazing with Josh and Bryan. We have a weekly meeting and talk about what is happening from the town’s leadership perspective and what the council would like to see happen. We meet for an hour every Friday morning and keep an open dialogue ongoing. With Town Council President Garrett, the responsiveness has been the key.
As the development of Creekside Corporate Park continues, have you been contacted by or is the town currently in negations with corporations who have expressed interest in relocating to Zionsville?
Yes. We’ve had some great conversations with the development community and have participated in some request for proposals (RFPs) for some projects that are not just courtesy requests but are real deals that we have a shot at winning, which we never would’ve had before the development of Creekside. The corporations that we’re talking with are from both in-state and also from out-of-state, so we are competing with Carmel, Westfield, Ohio and Illinois for these specific opportunities. We’ll know the outcome of those proposals shortly.
In regards to the parcels that are located where the former Town Hall once stood, what are the immediate and future plans for these parcels? Any updates on the former Citgo property on South Main?
The western plot that’s next to Starbucks is working through a contract right with Zionsville Eye Care and Storen Financial. They are doing their due diligence and working on the design of the 25,000-sq. ft. two-story building and on selecting a builder. That’s one of the projects that we hope to close anytime, so construction can begin. The eastern parcel, we would like to see one entity purchase it and additional adjoining parcels, combine them and then design something unique. All of the parties that own the adjoining parcels are aware of our vision, and now we are looking for someone who thinks outside of the box and can envision a bigger picture for that. It can be a mixed-use plan with residential and commercial spaces, but we would like to see something unique.
In regards to the former Citgo property, we’ve met with the owner again in January and shared our vision and what the town would like to see happen to that property. The owner shared what they would like do, but for now, we are in a holding pattern, and no specific plans have been decided at this time.
The town made national news when Little League International announced that its new home for the Central Region Headquarters will be in Zionsville. What is the timeline, and how will it impact the town and neighboring areas?
We’ve been having great dialogue with Little League International on the schedule and the logistics. They have submitted their plans and would like to be under construction this summer. The plan is for most of the project to be completed by the end of this year. They want to be open in June of 2019 for tournament play. Having the LLI’s headquarters here in Zionsville will have a significant financial impact for southeast Boone County, including Zionsville and Whitestown. In between games, visitors will be able to enjoy local shopping and dining. They will also be able to access our parks and Rail Trail. The fact that the tournaments will be live from Zionsville on an ESPN channel will allow our town’s hospitality to be showcased on a national platform.
What are some of the benchmarks that you are most proud of, and what are some that you would like to complete as mayor?
When I took office, we were behind the curve on infrastructure: roads, stormwater, etc. These are all big projects that take a big push and coordination with town staff. The roundabouts at Mulberry & Ford and Ford & Bloor have made significant impacts on the local traffic patterns. The town is looking into redoing the pedestrian access on Zionsville Road Bridge. We are working through that right now. We think with the good pricing that is coming in on the proposals, we’ll be able to pull it off this year. It takes a lot to redo Zionsville Road, and it takes the partnership that we have with the county from a funding perspective. I’m looking forward to the completion of that project, which is looking to be by the end of this year or early 2019. These are the kinds of projects that people see the value in more than any other. Everybody drives the roads every day.
With the recent and tragic death of Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Pickett and the Florida school shooting that resulted in an organized walkout at ZCHS, what measures are your office and other community leaders taking to protect our residents, students and law enforcement agencies as much as humanly possible?
The county-wide level of commitment to community safety was instituted with the Public Safety Tax [LIT]. That allows us to increase our police presence and fire and protection, and it also increased our partnership with the schools. Since the shooting in Florida, we’ve had a lot of conversations with the schools’ administration on how we can help and partner with them on an ongoing basis. In addition to the School Resource Officers (SROs), Zionsville police officers currently patrol the schools throughout the district on a daily basis, and those patrols have been increased. But we do need to talk about finding the funding specifically for additional SROs to further assist the schools. We meet with local law enforcement on a regular basis to discuss public safety, and we keep it at a high priority.
Deputy Pickett was a Zionsville resident, though we would’ve seen the same response from our residents even if he hadn’t lived in Zionsville. He was a county employee, and they are our partners. We utilize the Boone County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) quite a bit. There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from Zionsville residents wanting to know how they can help Deputy Pickett’s family. BCSO is finalizing plans on how people can best help, and that information will come directly from its office. This is who we are. When someone has a life-changing event or suffers a tragedy, the people of Zionsville are quick to step up and help.
The next election cycle is in the not too distant future. Would you like to be re-elected?
Oh yes, this is a dream job. This is the last job that I want. I don’t want to go to the Statehouse. The staff and I together can make a bigger impact doing this job than in any other government position. I am working close to my family, I’m working with and for the people that I’ve known growing up here, and I feel that I am making a more significant impact in this role than I would with any other job.