Merrillville tables vote on South Shore project contribution

NWI Times

MERRILLVILLE — The Town Council has delayed taking action on a resolution that would decrease its investment to the South Shore Line’s West Lake Corridor project, but it looks like reducing its pledge isn't feasible.

The council decided Tuesday to table voting on the resolution that would drop Merrillville's annual contribution of its County Economic Development Income Tax proceeds from 22 percent to 8 percent for the project. Multiple council members indicated additional discussion is needed about the matter.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky traveled Tuesday to the Region specifically to attend the meeting, and he said an interlocal agreement Merrillville approved for its investment is binding and can't be legally changed.

 

Visclosky said there has to be certainty for the project to gain all necessary approvals, and there have been actions moving the initiative forward.

“This is going to happen,” he said.

Visclosky explained that when he initially approached area elected officials about contributing CEDIT money for the project, he advised them to be comfortable with the amount they would be pledging.

Visclosky explained that when he initially approached area elected officials about contributing CEDIT money for the project, he advised them to be comfortable with the amount they would be pledging.

“I want people to be confident in their decisions,” he said.

Visclosky said the funding local communities are contributing is a wise investment for the future of Northwest Indiana.

He said the number of school-age children in the area that makes up the state's 1st Congressional District has declined by more than 74,000 students since 1970.

 
 
 
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Visclosky said the project will strengthen the area's economy in multiple ways, including improving access to high-paying jobs.

“We are going to build the economy for the children so they stay,” Visclosky said.

He said his office has had previous discussions with Merrillville officials about the town's contribution, but Monday was when he first became aware the proposed reduction was on the council's agenda. Visclosky said no other communities have inquired about decreasing their investments to the project.

Councilman Shawn Pettit said he wants Merrillville leaders to personally meet with Visclosky to go through the issue.

“I think we need more time to discuss this,” he said.

Visclosky said he would be willing to sit with municipal officials to continue explaining the South Shore project.

A meeting hasn't yet been scheduled for additional review of the matter, but the council indicated it would attempt to schedule a session in coming weeks.

Financial matters are among the reasons Merrillville is considering reducing its investment to the project.

On Monday, Council President Richard Hardaway said Merrillville can't afford the current pledge. Hardaway, who agrees more dialogue is needed about the issue, had said there isn't a specific economic development project that prompted Merrillville to pursue the contribution decrease, but the town doesn't want to drain its CEDIT funds.