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Griffith Says No To West Lake Funding Citing Recent Legislation
Town Council President Rick Ryfa read a letter from the Council which stated “while it has been reported that Senate Bill 528 subrogates every additional fund that gets distributed to a town or city. . . this could create issues when additional bonding takes place.”
May 2, 2016-The Griffith Town Council put the final nail in the coffin of Congressman Visclosky’s attempt to get them to sign on to the West Lake Interlocal Agreement. Congressman Visclosky had originally asked every city and town in Lake County to agree to contribute 25% of their CEDIT funding to the project. Many towns signed on, but most provided pledges much smaller than the requested 25%. Griffith originally agreed to pledge a flat amount, rather than a percentage, but that pledge was declined by Congressman Visclosky. The cost of the West Lake Extension is a flat amount so there is no reason that a contribution should be a continually increasing amount as Congressman Visclosky is requiring. Lake County, for example, committed the 25% of annual CEDIT funds and that amount has grown from $2M per year to nearly $2.5M and construction has not even started yet.
The Town Council expressed grave concerns over the impact that Senate Bill 128 could have if CEDIT funds were not enough to satisfy the obligations of an interlocal commitment. According to Council President Ryfa, the provision withholding other municipal funds in the event of non-payment could hamper borrowing ability if the Town wanted to bond other types of funds. In short, if there was not enough CEDIT money available, the State of Indiana could take Local Option Income Tax or any other fund available under the Bill which was recently signed into law by Governor Holcomb.
Heather Ennis, President and CEO of the taxpayer funded, One Region associated, Northwest Indiana Forum stood in support of funding for the West Lake Extension. Ennis repeated the Sheldrake prepared One Region talking points, stating that the West Lake Extension will bring $35M in additional personal income to Griffith. Bill Sheldrake is the owner and founder of Policy Analytics which also said the “investment” in the Gary Airport would bring 86,000 jobs to the region. Ennis also stated that the West Lake Extension, which is expected to have approximately 1500-2,000 new daily riders, would bring 8,000 new residents to the region.
Heather Ennis, who is paid by taxpayers but not accountable to them, also testified in favor of a NIPSCO rate increase last year.
The One Region crew will now move on to try to pressure Hammond, East Chicago and Cedar Lake to sign on to the agreement.