Lake officials weigh ways to spend $15M borrowed cash

2013-04-04T19:03:00Z 2013-04-04T20:06:43Z Lake officials weigh ways to spend $15M borrowed cashBy Bill Dolan, (219) 662-5328

CROWN POINT | Lake County officials have big plans for spending the $15 million they borrowed this year.

The Lake County highway superintendent, sheriff and surveyor were among eight who asked for most of that amount to rebuild crumbling roads, drainage ditches and continue enhanced medical care for the county's inmates.

The Lake treasurer, auditor and other officials have formed a borrowing committee to review requests for the money and will make their recommendations to the County Council and commissioners next month.

The loan represents a compromise county officials made in the face of  declining property tax revenues, rising uncontrollable costs and an unwillingness — at the time — to enact a local income tax.

Although the County Council has finally scheduled a vote to enact an income tax, its revenue won't make any impact on this year's budget.

Highway officials need $5 million for new bridges and pavement. Sheriff John Buncich needs $2 million pay a team of 50 medical and mental health specialists.

They treat at least 60 percent of the 14,000 men and women incarcerated annually who have health care issues. Many are substance abusers.

Lake County Surveyor George Van Til wants $1.9 million to dredge seven ditches, draining stormwater from a number of suburban and rural areas in the county.

Lake County Assessor Hank Adams said he needs $1.3 million for past and future consultant services to update private property values for taxation purposes.

Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey wants $80,000 to buy four new vehicles for herself and investigators. Senior Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. is asking for less than $158,000 to pay for jury services, primarily involved with a recent death penalty case.

Senior Civil Judge Gerald Svetanoff asked for $8,500 to provide meals for juries who serve at the Gary courthouse.

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