Lake County Council tries to trim departing air show's wings

2013-12-10T20:00:00Z 2013-12-11T17:41:08Z Lake County Council tries to trim departing air show's wingsBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
December 10, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Spending Lake County taxes to stage an airshow outside the county won't fly with a majority of the Lake County Council.

Council members on Tuesday approved a resolution 4-2 opposing a plan by South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority President Speros Batistatos to shift the South Shore Air Show next summer from Gary's Miller Beach to Fair Oaks Farms, which straddles Newton and Jasper counties 40 miles to the south.

Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, who sponsored the resolution, said she isn't sure what can be done to stop Batistatos from using money from county hotel and motel innkeeper taxes and county casinos' admissions taxes from promoting the outside event.

Their action follows the Hammond City Council's 9-0 vote Monday to adopt a similar resolution against diverting county tax dollars to an outside jurisdiction.

Hammond City Council President Mike Opinker, D-5th, said Monday that moving the air show to Newton County is “totally ludicrous.”

Batistatos announced earlier this month he wanted to move it south because Gary can no longer afford to support such a large event on its lakefront, and because federal air space restrictions connected to nearby Chicago Midway International Airport prevent using either Hammond's or Whiting's lakefronts.

County Councilman David Hamm, D-Hammond, said, "If there is no air show in Gary, then so be it. There are other ways to promote tourism in Lake County."

Council members Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, and Jerome Prince, D-Gary, joined the majority, while Dan Dernulc, R-Highland, and Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, voted against the resolution. Councilwoman Elsie Franklin, D-Gary, was absent.

Dernulc said he would like to have Batistatos explain his reasons for the Fair Oaks venue.

Council members also voted unanimously Tuesday to approve pay raises for the Lake County sheriff's police officers and corrections officers.

The county is giving a 3 percent increase to the 162 police commanders and officers. Daniel Murchek, deputy police chief for the county, said the one-year labor agreement still leaves his men and women the second lowest paid department in the county, with only Gary being less.

The county will give the 176 men and women who guard inmates a 2 percent salary increase and restore the county's former contribution to their pension plan, a figure that amounts to about 1.5 percent of their salary.

Times correspondent Rob Earnshaw contributed to this report.

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