INDIANAPOLIS | A forced absorption of the Hammond Public Library by the Lake County library system was removed Wednesday from legislation advancing toward a final vote in the Indiana House.
State Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, asked lawmakers to delete the library merger provision from House Bill 1145 and instead assign a legislative study committee to meet this summer and review the issue of library consolidation.
Her request was approved by voice vote.
A House committee last week added the library merger mandate to legislation sponsored by state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster.
Under the plan, the Lake County Public Library would have taken on all the property, employees, contracts and debt of the Hammond library on Jan. 1, 2014. Neither library board would have to agree to the change or could stop it.
The merger is strongly supported by Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.
But Reardon said as library officials and state lawmakers looked deeper into requiring a merger many issues popped up.
"I don't think you can mandate that the taxpayers of the entire county take on the debt of the city of Hammond libraries," she said. "It's not that I'm opposed to consolidation, but I think everyone has to be comfortable with it."
McDermott said he understood the need to delay the merger and supports the study committee. But he isn't happy his fellow Democrats scuttled the proposal because it would have saved Hammond $1 million a year.
"Hammond residents are being penalized and basically I have to sit back and maintain the status quo because my caucus wouldn't give me the time of day," McDermott said.