Hammond City Council eyes road, infrastructure projects

2012-03-04T00:00:00Z 2012-03-04T00:21:01Z Hammond City Council eyes road, infrastructure projectsBy Chelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | The City Council will study taking out a $16 million loan to fund roads and infrastructure projects throughout the community.

Many of the projects are considered high priority but are at risk of losing federal funding if the city doesn't begin them soon.

To fund the projects, the city's six district council members must agree to give $100,000 per quarter of their discretionary gaming money until the loan is repaid by late 2015 or early 2016. That money is the local match required to use federal dollars for the projects.

Councilman Al Salinas, D-2nd, supports giving gaming dollars to the projects. The funding would leverage more than $45.7 million in repairs.

Projects on Kennedy Avenue from 173rd to 169th streets and Indianapolis Boulevard from 169th to 165th streets are among those the funding would help jump-start.

"I'm in favor of anything to enhance Hammond," Salinas said. "I guess the money is up-front now, and we don't want to lose it."

Typically, the city has picked one or two projects a year to complete from a list approved by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

City Controller Bobby Lendi said NIRPC has put pressure on cities to come up with the local dollars necessary to fund more of their approved projects, or the commission may reallocate federal funds elsewhere.

"What's happened is a bunch of cities have gotten (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funds ... or state subsidies that they are able to use for local match," Lendi said.

The state will reimburse at least $4.25 million of the loan, so the actual amount Hammond will pay back is about $11.75 million.

"It's going to make sense for us to go ahead and finance the projects now," Lendi said.

Councilwoman Janet Venecz, D-at large, said she hasn't heard feedback on the ordinance she's sponsored with Councilman Dan Spitale, D-at large, but hopes council members support it.

"We would be rather foolish to bypass $45 million worth of work," Venecz said.

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