GRIFFITH | It was standing room only Tuesday night as residents encouraged the Town Council to continue its effort to secede from Calumet Township.
House bill 1585, sponsored by state Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, passed the Indiana House, but was significantly altered by the Senate Local Government committee through an amendment by state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek.
In his amendment, Hershman, Senate sponsor of the bill, added new language while removing the language allowing Griffith residents to vote on secession.
Griffith Council Vice President Rick Ryfa, R-3rd, said Hershman did not think he had enough votes to pass the original bill.
"Our main goal now is just to get a bill out of the Senate," Ryfa said.
In a letter to the council, Slager said the bill has been re-committed to the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee.
"We anticipate a hearing sometime next week," Ryfa said.
If the altered bill passes the Senate, it would go to a conference committee to hash out the differences between the two versions.
It is here that the secession language could be reinserted, Ryfa said.
If this happens, both houses would vote again on the final bill, he noted.
In his letter, Slager encouraged that comments be sent downstate. "Your direct input ... along with the input from many residents, does in fact make a difference," Slager said. "The members of the General Assembly are aware of the problem and want to help."
Slager added that the bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, also has worked hard to pass the bill.
Resident Philip Drozd urged others to mail letters instead of sending emails because they are more effective.
"It's everybody's fight," he said.
Resident Robert Bubala referred to a comment by Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin that Griffith residents want to stay in the township and that the secession effort was only Ryfa's fight.
Bubala pointed to the 40 residents packing the room and said it obviously is not a one-man war. His comment was met with polite applause from the audience.
"Mrs. Elgin has made that claim before," Clerk-treasurer George Jerome said. "I don't know how she, with a straight face, can make that comment."
Jerome noted that a petition for township relief was signed by almost 4,000 Griffith residents in 2007.
A couple other residents reported they were denied assistance by the township after a tornado ripped the town in 2008.
Ryfa said Griffith's attorneys in Indianapolis are urging people to not be discouraged.
He added that Hershman said to "keep the faith. We're going to get something done."
In other business, the council approved the promotion of Detective Lt. Matthew Argadine to become new Police Chief Greg Mance's executive officer/detective lieutenant.
Sgt. Jeffrey Gang also was promoted to become Mance's operations lieutenant.