Past and future come together in Lake surveyor race

2012-05-03T21:00:00Z Past and future come together in Lake surveyor raceBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | The race for Lake County surveyor features five candidates, promising voters a sunnier future for flood control.

Surveyor George Van Til, who was first elected to the office two decades ago and is running for his sixth term, is touting his record.

Van Til, whose campaign yard signs read "Mapping the future," says his administration has been essential in government cooperation to finance and complete the following projects:

• Redesigning drainage for the Broadfield subdivision in Merrillville;

• Creating Gatlin Nature Preserve, a 38-acre former flood plain at the confluence of Griffith, Schererville and Merrillville that now is the center of new home construction and recreational areas because of a series of man-made flood control ponds;

• Creating a network of flood-control structures in Schererville and Dyer that made new commercial development possible and protected Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Dyer;

• Working this year to improve the dam that Lake Dalecarlia's 500 homes are built around and stabilize the banks of Cedar Creek upstream of Lowell;

• Completing a storm sewer system last year for the flood-prone Ranburn Woods subdivision, 350 homes in unincorporated Calumet Township south of Gary;

• Creating new flood-control features this year for Heather Hills and Schererville Heights, 300 homes on Schererville's southern border; and

• Installing a county computer-based information system to plot new development that the Indiana Geographic Information Council has commended as an outstanding innovation.

Van Til's critics recall him allowing a son to drive a county-owned vehicle to school and having an employee fuel Van Til's personal vehicle at the county pump.

His Democratic opponent, John E. Garcia, is making his second run for county surveyor in four years with an emphasis on stormwater management.

"We've got to look at the big picture and come up with a comprehensive plan about Deep River winding so much. Maybe straighten it out and get water out to the lake a lot faster. That is going to take some major planning and a 25- to 40-year project. The longer you wait, the dollar amount keeps getting worse," Garcia said.

Garcia, owner of Garcia Consulting Engineers in Hammond, has done business in Northwest Indiana for 18 years and has served as East Chicago city engineer and as a consultant for a number of other communities.

Garcia said that as a flooding victim himself, he is running for surveyor to bring renewed order and purpose to the county's stormwater management program.

He also states in a profile he submitted to The Times that he would provide private sector surveyors with online access to surveyor's office records and administer the office free of "petty" politics.

Van Til questions whether Garcia's engineering work with other communities would create conflicts of interest if Garcia also were a county surveyor.

The Republican primary features three candidates: Eric Krieg, of Munster; Jayson H. Reeve, of Gary; and Arthur Santos Sr., of East Chicago.

Krieg said, "I'm a degree-ed engineer, which is what is needed in that job. I would ensure the office is run ethically, unlike previous nonethical conduct, and I would end the politicizing of the office." He complains Van Til declared a political war on the Little Calumet River Basin Commission with a rival plan to maintain its flood levies.

Van Til said he believes his participation in the Little Calumet River debate resulted in better legislation that strengthens local control over how money is spent and spreads the cost over a large number of property owners.

Reeve said he is a partner of a civil engineering firm with surveying duties. He is making his second run for surveyor in eight years. He also has run for Gary mayor and Congress.

Reeve said he would re-evaluate the office in an attempt to avoid the level of flooding communities along the Little Calumet River experienced in 2008 by working with them to improve drainage. He said he believes the expansion of the Borman Expressway aggravated existing flood problems.

Santos didn't return calls seeking comment. He has run for East Chicago mayor three times since 2003.

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