GRIFFITH | After six years of trying to leave Calumet Township, the Town Council said Tuesday that 2013 may finally be the charm.
A bill, HB-1585, was introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives on Monday by freshman Rep. Hal Slager-R, Schererville.
"(It) allows for the transfer of a municipal territory to an adjacent township if certain conditions are satisfied," Slager said Tuesday afternoon.
The bill says a community can conduct a referendum among its own citizens to determine whether to leave a township and join an adjacent one — if the township's assistance property tax rate is 15 times the statewide assistance average.
Griffith's tax rate is more than 30 times the average, Griffith Council Vice President Rick Ryfa, R-3rd, noted.
Slager said his bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster; and Gerald Torr, R-Carmel.
"The poor relief levy by Calumet Township is unfortunate, but should not be borne so heavily by the residents of Griffith, who utilize such a small amount of services from the township," Slager said.
Ryfa noted that past attempts have failed at the last minute because they were attached to larger, existing bills that failed.
"This year we are introducing a stand-alone bill that will reform only the most egregious of townships," Ryfa said. "It is a bill that is good for Griffith, very fair to the rest of the state, and should be acceptable to the Indiana Township Association."
Town officials say that getting the word out among the Indiana General Assembly members should help the town's cause.
"The Griffith town officials and I have been working hard over the last several months to make sure that legislators around the state are aware of the injustices that the people of Griffith face at the hands of Calumet Township," said Griffith's lobbyist, attorney Mario V. Massillamany of Barnes & Thornburg LLP in Indianapolis.
If the bill becomes law, it will be effective starting July 1.
The bill also says that, if a town leaves its township and is unable to join any adjacent township, it can perform township services on its own.
"We like our chances of this moving forward in the House," Ryfa said.
In other business, interim Police Chief Matthew Moore said he recently met with Highland and Munster officials regarding the three-town crime task force being created.
"Operations will begin this week," he said.
The board also unanimously voted for 2012 council President Glen Gaby, R-1, to remain in that seat for 2013, with Ryfa continuing as vice president.
The council also appointed Don Hill as the town's deputy fire chief.