Lake County flood control projects at risk of fiscal crisis

2013-04-16T18:45:00Z 2013-04-17T00:04:06Z Lake County flood control projects at risk of fiscal crisisBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
April 16, 2013 6:45 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | The Lake County surveyor is making his case for spending some of the millions of dollars a Lake County income tax could raise on flood-control protection.

"We have to maintain our infrastructure. We can let it go, but the longer we do, it gets more expensive to repair," Surveyor George Van Til said recently in a pitch to win $1.9 million for eight drainage ditches this year and another $9.8 million for 10 more in future years.

Van Til said county government has spent more than $23.6 million since 1993 on more than 254 ditch and levee repair and maintenance projects. He said other government units in the county have contributed another $1.2 million in further maintenance work.

He had been planning to spend $2.2 million in property taxes this year. However, that was reduced to $300,000 by the County Council, which had to scrub millions of additional dollars in road and bridge repairs because of state-mandated tax cuts and a depressed economy that has reduced government revenues.

The County Council borrowed $15 million this year to finance health care for county jail inmates, pay overdue contracts costs and recover some of the canceled infrastructure projects.

Van Til is awaiting a recommendation by county officials, who have formed a committee to give priority to monetary requests. The County Council and Lake County Board of Commissioners must approve his requests before the money can be spent.

Van Til said borrowing isn't a long-term solution since the county must maintain 600 miles of regulated drains. He said the money is spent on engineering and earth moving, not on employee salaries or equipment.

"This isn't any more than what we have been doing since the year 2000. We need to do this the next year and following year," Van Til said.

The County Council voted 4-3 last week to approve a 1.5 percent income tax on county residents.

A second council vote is required, but it's not scheduled to take place until May 14.

Commissioners are expected to veto the tax. If so, the council would have to override a veto by five votes.

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