Lake County officials dis, discuss RDA

2014-02-06T19:45:00Z 2014-02-06T21:21:23Z Lake County officials dis, discuss RDABill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
February 06, 2014 7:45 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Randy Palmateer asked Lake County officials Wednesday to rate his first year as their representative on the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

Lake County Council members said he was doing a fine job, but they hope the RDA curls up and dies.

The state Legislature created the RDA nine years ago to pool the area's economic resources to finance economic development no one county or community could afford.

Palmateer reported the RDA most recently has helped fund the Wolf Lake conservatory in Hammond, demolition for new Calumet College campus housing in Hammond, financial incentives that lured Pratt Industries, Tec Air Inc. and Land O'Frost to the region and approved $17 million for improvements at East Chicago's Lake Michigan waterfront.

The RDA did much of that with local casino dollars the county, Gary, Hammond and East Chicago must contribute to RDA coffers. Lake County alone must ante up $3.5 million annually.

Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, asked, "What has the RDA done for south Lake County?" He said south county communities have forwarded proposals, "but they have fallen on deaf ears."

And now the state Legislature is considering Senate Bill 367, which closes a loophole to ensure only low-income homeowners claim the $300 Lake County Residential Property Tax Credit and forwards the $4 million in projected annual savings to the RDA instead of Lake County, Hammond, East Chicago and Gary.

"No one from this (County Council) body wants that to go to the RDA. Why do we need RDA as a clearinghouse?" Councilman David Hamm, D-Hammond, said Thursday at a council workshop meeting.

Palmateer defended the RDA as an economic engine that has created large numbers of union jobs. Palmateer is business manager of the Northwest Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council.

Strong said if the county had its share of that money, it could fund road and bridge work that also would generate union work.

Councilman Jerome Prince, D-Gary, said he and other local officials would prefer the $4 million be committed to the West Lake expansion of the South Shore commuter line. The expansion would add 8 miles of track from Hammond to Dyer. It is estimated to cost more than $464 million to build and another $9.6 million annually to operate.

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