HAMMOND | The City Council banned scavenging in the city Monday after rejecting a proposal that would have placed new requirements on the activity instead of ridding it completely.
City Councilman Bill Emerson, D-4th, had offered what he described as a compromise, which in place of a ban would have required scrappers to be Hammond residents, conduct the activity at certain days and times and submit to background checks before becoming licensed.
A majority of council members struck down Emerson's amendment and passed the ordinance by a 5-3 vote with City Councilman Al Salinas, D-2nd, absent.
The vote came after a series of scrappers appealed to council members that banning the activity would hurt their ability to put food on the table.
Darren Johnson, who holds an active scavenging license in the city, called the ordinance devastating.
“Guys like us are not trying to thieve or rip off nobody,” Johnson said. “I'm just trying to do the best I can to support me and my family and take care of everything. I've been successful at it. It's not easy finding scrap out there.”
The ordinance ends the city license for scavenging but permits individuals currently licensed to keep doing the activity until Dec. 31. More than 30 people hold scavenging licenses in Hammond, which allows them to pick up scrap metal in streets and alleys.
City Councilwoman Janet Venecz, D-at large, said she has heard consistent complaints from residents that scrappers are going on their private property or leaving messes behind in alleys.
“These are the kinds of things residents are confronted with on a daily basis,” said Venecz who voted for the ordinance.
Some council members questioned whether streets department workers could handle the volume of scrap metal left on streets after the permit ends.
Yet, Streets Department Commissioner Gary Gleason said he won't require more staff to handle pick-ups.
Gleason estimated city workers scrapping the material would generate between $50,000 to $100,000 per year for the city's general fund.
City Council President Michael Opinker, D-5th, said he changed his mind and voted for the ordinance after hearing concerns from Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller.
Miller asked council members to pass the ban at a committee meeting before the public hearing, saying his department receives constant complaints on scrappers.
“You have to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people,” Miller said. “They go through alleys and see the opportunity to take things that aren't scrap. It becomes a huge drain on my manpower ... while taking care of those problems, we're not taking care of businesses and residences.”