HAMMOND | Council members could no longer use gaming dollars to place Dumpsters in their districts for neighborhood cleanups under an ordinance proposed Monday.
The ordinance bars council members from using the gaming money set aside for their districts to pay for Dumpsters. Currently, Dumpsters are an allowable expense because they fall under “infrastructure work and public safety” in city code.
In 2011, council members spent more than $200,000 on cleanups in their districts out of their discretionary gaming dollars. Much of the money was spent on Dumpsters, an expense Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. previously identified to The Times as a problem area.
Amid spending concerns, Councilwoman Janet Venecz, D-at large, said the ordinance's main intent is to curb contractors from illegally using the Dumpsters.
“There are an awful lot of illegal rehabbers that we are trying to curb in the city,” Venecz said. “What they do, they rehab the houses. They save all their trash until we have the cleanup and put all the debris in there. We are really making an effort to try to curb the illegal rehabs and by eliminating the Dumpsters that's one way of doing that.”
Yet, Councilman Homero “Chico” Hinojosa, D-6th, said approximately 50 residents have approached him who liked the Dumpsters he placed in the district. Hinojosa said instead of banning the expense, the City Council should place spending limits on Dumpsters.
“Of course you got to keep an eye on Dumpsters because some people abuse Dumpsters,” Hinojosa said.
Councilman Anthony Higgs, D-3rd, said he planned a cleanup in his district once a year.
“Whatever reason to eliminate them in the city is beyond me,” Higgs said, “but I thought it was an asset to the residents who live within my district, and it benefited them and helped them in cleanup.”
The ordinance also argues that gaming revenue should not pay for Dumpsters because the city is projected to receive less of the funding in 2013. Council members gave initial approval to the ordinance at Monday's meeting, but sent it to committee for further review.
Council President Michael Opinker, who has used gaming dollars to place Dumpsters in the 5th District in the past, said he agrees with the ordinance.
“The funds were there then, the funds aren't there now,” Opinker said, “Like I said, that is not a top priority.”