Dyer council narrowly backs South Shore funding

2014-04-11T19:58:00Z 2014-04-11T22:03:22Z Dyer council narrowly backs South Shore fundingMary Wilds Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
April 11, 2014 7:58 pm  • 

DYER |  The Town Council narrowly approved a resolution supporting the South Shore commuter rail extension Thursday, following some negative feedback from its audience.

The resolution allocates 5 percent of community economic development income tax money, or $53,000, toward the extension beginning in 2015.

The vote was 3-2, with Councilwomen Debbie Astor and Mary Tanis voting no. Both disagreed with the financing plans. Astor had said she would have preferred an amount of money be specified rather than a percentage of tax revenues.

“This is an awful lot of (money) for Dyer to commit,” Tanis said.

The money would go toward extending the South Shore line into Dyer.

Councilwoman Connee Trepton said she thought Dyer’s financial participation will help give it a say in certain matters, such as the eventual rail station and parking lots. “We need a place at the table” in order to have a say, she said.

The feedback from residents at the meeting was almost uniformly negative.

When Town Council President Joe Cinko said he had received a lot of positive feedback from residents, Resident Cathy Lareau said, “I could give you just as many residents who are not in favor of it.”

Lareau, who is president of the Dyer Parks and Recreation Board, also said she believes Dyer is jumping the gun by committing money so early in the process.

“I would feel more comfortable if a study gets done before any money gets committed,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Merrillville, and his staff are seeking state and federal money for the project, and thus have asked communities to provide a local match to help get the process rolling, town officials said.

Residents wondered what, if any, benefits the extension will provide Dyer residents. Others expressed frustration over details that have yet to be provided.

Lareau said earlier discussion pinpointed the area around U.S. 30 and Calumet Avenue as the end of the line. But current plans call for the line to go no further than Main Street.

Town officials could not say where exactly the tracks would be placed, although there is an existing right of way in Munster along a bike path.

Resident John Young asked whether neighborhoods also would be disrupted.

“Whose houses are going to be destroyed?” he asked. “Somewhere along the line houses are going to have to be destroyed in Munster.”

During various meetings this past month, Visclosky had asked that communities commit up to 30 percent of Lake County income tax revenue toward building the extension.

Current plans call for the extension to end at Main Street, though in the future it could be extended as far south as Lowell. The first Dyer-Hammond train could be up and running in nine years.

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