GRIFFITH | The Griffith Town Council and its audience applauded state Rep. Hal Slager on Tuesday for his efforts in helping ease the financial burden of Calumet Township.
Earlier this month, Gov. Mike Pence signed HB 1585, which allows Griffith to secede from the township if the township fails to significantly reduce its spending by 2015.
Slager, R-Schererville, was on hand to offer a few comments about the bill, which he sponsored on behalf of the town.
"It was quite a privilege to represent the town of Griffith in what was a seven-year odyssey," Slager said of an effort started in 2007 by council Vice President Rick Ryfa, R-3rd.
With all the efforts Ryfa made over the years, Slager said he felt like he was batting cleanup as he traveled back and forth to Indianapolis to help make the legislators understand Griffith's financial plight.
"You don't do this overnight," he said.
Slager worked in one area as the town's downstate lobbyists worked in others, he said. As legislators began to understand the picture more completely, they became appalled, Slager said.
Griffith taxpayers give $1.7 million annually to Calumet Township for poor relief, but only get between $10,000 and $15,000 in return.
"They realized that the time had come" to help Griffith and the rest of the township, Slager said.
Between poor relief and a large budget, the township currently spends 22.64 times the state average. If township spending is not reduced to 12 times the state average, Griffith can pursue a referendum in 2015 that would allow the town to leave the township.
The referendum, if it takes place, would be in the second half of 2015, Slager said.
If Griffith residents were to vote to leave the township, the town would go to an adjoining township, town officials have said.
"Hal worked long and hard down there for the citizens of Griffith," said council President Glen Gaby, R-1st.
Slager will return to Town Hall at 7 p.m. May 30 to hold a legislative forum for residents.
The board also announced that a Memorial Day service will take place at 10 a.m. Monday at the war memorial in Central Park.