HAMMOND | An ordinance introduced during the City Council meeting Monday would extend the College Bound scholarship program for students in the class of 2026, but will cap the amount at current tuition rates.

The ordinance, sponsored by Councilwoman Janet Venecz, D-at large, shifts the program's funding source from steadily decreasing casino revenue to money generated from water service contracts with communities in Illinois.

"Our concern was how could we fund the program when our casino funds have continued to dwindle," Venecz said. "This gave us the opportunity to permanently fund the program."

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said the $3.2 million program will also cap the scholarship at current tuition rates at Indiana University Bloomington, around $10,200 a year.

When tuition at Purdue University Calumet exceeds the cap, Hammond will begin increasing the scholarship amounts again.

"Not every student's going to receive 100 percent tuition coverage," McDermott said. "But this way, the students who are currently getting the scholarship won't see their scholarship cut suddenly."

The council also considered a proposal to provide a new Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant planned for 2848 Carlson Dr. with $800,000 in incentives through the TIF program.

The new restaurant will add about 50 jobs, and is a total investment of about $2.5 million, said Phil Taillon, executive director of Hammond's Department of Planning and Development.

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for June 9.

A short discussion regarding 6th District Councilman Homero Hinojosa's ordinance restoring seniority days for firefighters occurred during the caucus meeting, but no action occurred during the council meeting.

McDermott asked why the proposal offered the benefits only to firefighters, and didn't consider other city employees or police officers.

Hinojosa said the days off were originally in the firefighter's contract, and the council has the power to decide if they'll restore those days off.

The council will ask the School City of Hammond board to consider moving its meetings from the second and fourth Mondays of the month to the first and third.

Councilman Anthony Higgs, D-3rd, said citizens and council members should be able to attend both city and school board meetings and not have to choose.

Venecz explained to other council members that the city has no control over the decisions of the school board, but joined the rest of the council in the request.

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