McDermott still touts water sales to fund scholarship program

2013-11-21T21:15:00Z 2013-11-22T00:14:31Z McDermott still touts water sales to fund scholarship programLU ANN FRANKLIN Times Correspondent
November 21, 2013 9:15 pm  • 

HAMMOND | Mayor Thomas M. McDermott Jr. provided more details Thursday night on how he hopes the city’s College Bound scholarship program can be funded without casino revenues.

The program will expire at the end of the 2015-16 school year.

McDermott met with more than 100 Hammond residents at Edison Elementary School to gather their input about extending College Bound for another 10 to 20 years.

Gaming revenue provided the initial funding for the scholarship program. However, McDermott said, relying on that sole source is now a weakness.

“It was like jumping out of an airplane without a backup parachute,” he said. He added, if Chicago gets casinos “we will be in a major dog fight in gaming.”

New deals Hammond recently made to sell water at $2.20 per 1,000 gallons to Chicago Heights and Calumet City will provide revenues for College Bound for the next 20 years, according to the mayor.

“It’s a windfall for the city,” he said, adding that Chicago sells water to surrounding Illinois communities at more than twice that price.

“Let’s get off the gaming revenue (for College Bound). I would like to see it extended for 20 years. That would cover any child alive in Hammond today,” he said.

McDermott first proposed the College Bound program in 2006 to increase home ownership, make education a priority and improve the quality of life within the city.

Participation in College Bound has steadily increased along with the cost of the scholarship program, he said.

Currently 535 students participate in the program that provides qualified homeowners’ children with up to $10,200 per year college scholarships to be used in public or private colleges or universities in Indiana.

Students must meet the program’s basic education requirements and their parents must own and reside in a home in Hammond. The students’ college grades are closely monitored and every recipient must do specific hours of community service in the city.

“It’s now a larger part of the (city’s) budget, over $3 million this year,” McDermott said.

The next College Bound public forum begins at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 8 at Hammond’s Lost Marsh Golf Course Clubhouse, 1001 129th St.

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