E.C. mayor optimistic about city's future

2013-04-03T23:00:00Z E.C. mayor optimistic about city's futureCharles F. Haber Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
April 03, 2013 11:00 pm  • 

EAST CHICAGO | Before a large audience Wednesday at the Field Educational Center, Mayor Anthony Copeland gave a State of the City address that promises many projects in 2013.

Standing tall among them is the Cline Avenue toll bridge project.

"We will have also laid the foundation for one of the largest infrastructure projects in this city’s history," Copeland said. "We are set to break ground within the next year."

All of the steel and concrete for the $150 million to $200 million project will be supplied by local companies, including ArcelorMittal, the mayor said.

He said 30,000 cars per day typically traveled the road before the previous bridge was closed and demolished, and the future toll bridge operator will return 10 cents per vehicle to the city.

That amounts to $3,000 per day, he said.

Other 2013 projects include a Baring Avenue reconstruction, 145th Street, the Aldis Street bridge and a sewer project on Todd Avenue.

All 2013 reconstruction projects will total $14 million, Copeland said.

While speaking in the former Eugene Field Elementary School, Copeland said it will become home to the city's first community college.

The City University Campus "will make education more accessible and affordable to our youth," Copeland said.

"We have put out an RFQ and will enter into lease talks by July," he said. "We have the interest of four colleges."

The School Board earlier week threatened litigation to have the Field Elementary site and three other properties returned to the School City of East Chicago. The properties were sold by a previous board to the city for $1 each.

Progress is being made despite the lack of a local option income tax, Copeland said.

Last year the city's general fund was reduced from $34 million to $30.7 million and gaming revenue fell from $13 million to $6 million.

This year gaming revenue will be reduced to $3 million, Copeland said.

"This will pave the way for zero reliance on gaming in 2014," he said.

Tight budgets also have forced the Fire Department to reassign staff officers to firefighting duties. This resulted in a saving of more than $650,000 and enabled the department to avoid any layoffs, Copeland said.

Other 2013 positives include additional equipment for both the Police and Fire departments.

Copeland also said the city is working with DuPont to offer a 200-acre site east of Kennedy Avenue for redevelopment. It would be the largest available parcel near the Indiana/Chicago border.

"If we have perfect alignment starting today, three years from now we will have realized about $250 million dollars of economic development in our city," Copeland said.

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