EAST CHICAGO | Mayor Anthony Copeland announced 10 infrastructure projects — representing an urban investment of $22 million — at a gathering Wednesday of region economic leaders.
During the Lakeshore chamber's luncheon at the Ameristar Casino, Copeland said many of the projects will begin in March and include road repairs and demolition of vacant buildings and houses.
Projects also include phase one of the lakefront development with a new splash pad, lighting, landscaping, sidewalks and removing an acre of asphalt, Copeland said.
Roads slated for renovations include sections of Main Street, Bering Avenue, 145th street, Euclid Avenue and a roundabout on Columbus Drive near the Cline Avenue entrance ramp.
Copeland said any road replacements will include replacing water mains, sewer lines, landscaping and sidewalks. Those projects total more than $18.3 million in infrastructure investments, he said.
Copeland said funding for the projects will come largely from gaming revenues, which have been freed up by making budget cuts.
"2011, 2012 and 2013 were mired in red ink," Copeland said. "But 2014 is going to be nurtured in a nest made from black ink."
City government previously operated under a $15 million deficit and would use gaming money to cover the shortfall, the mayor said.
"Using gaming dollars for salaries is a big no-no," Copeland said. "Those dollars are intended for use to improve the infrastructure."
By making cuts, including reducing city staff from 756 personnel to 523, the city can use its general fund to operate, leaving the gaming revenue for city improvements, Copeland said.
The mayor also highlighted new retail businesses and restaurants planning to move into East Chicago, including Subway, Jerk Chicken to Go and Dunkin' Donuts.
A program enticing potential residents with a bonus down payment if they buy a house in the city has attracted 60 new homeowners to the city, he said.
"In time, people will see the progress being made in East Chicago," Copeland said. "In 2014, our mantra will be 'Build, baby build.'"
Copeland said he hopes to make additional investment announcements during his State of the City address scheduled for late March.