CROWN POINT | Lake drainage officials were hit Wednesday with a torrent of political debate between County Surveyor George Van Til and his opponents.
Eric Krieg, the Republican nominee for county surveyor, told members of the county drainage board and its advisory committee that Van Til's office improperly paid R.A. Oros, of Munster, for work that either wasn't done on time or was done poorly on the Spring Street Ditch in Munster and the Brown Levee Ditch 10 miles southeast of Lowell. The projects have cost the public more than a quarter of a million dollars.
Krieg said the county should get a $30,000 refund from the Spring Street vendor who installed poorer quality erosion blankets than the work contract specified. The drainage board decided only to demand a $3,700 refund.
Van Til said, "The timing of all this is interesting."
Krieg and Van Til, who is running for re-election, will face off in the Nov. 6 general election.
It was the latest in a series of attacks Krieg has launched against Van Til, whom Krieg accuses of giving preferential treatment to vendors giving him political contributions and failing to provide proper oversight of more than $1.6 million a year in drainage improvement work.
Krieg and his supporter, Joe Jargella, of Chem Check Inc., of Gary, accused Van Til and other county officials of steering work on the Brown Levee away from Chem Check.
Joe Hero, a Munster Republican activist, demanded an independent inquiry.*
"What I'm hearing is that bid rigging is going on with these contracts. Conduct your own investigation. Don't take anybody's word," he said.
Van Til denies Krieg's allegations, saying they are wild, inaccurate attempts to attract voter attention. He said Jargella is seeking revenge for the county's refusal to give him the Brown Levee Ditch contract.
John Dull, the county attorney, said he will investigate all the claims too.
Members of the drainage advisory committee, a group of appointed officials and property owners from across the county, said they were reluctant to join Krieg's political fight.
Alice Dahl, Cedar Creek Township trustee, a Republican and a drainage advisory committee member, said she supports Van Til's drainage work and demanded Krieg prove some of his claims. She said Jargella's Chem Check did unsatisfactory work last year on Griesel Ditch near Lowell. Jargella has denied that.
Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, a drainage board member who is running for re-election, said he relied on expert advice in voting against Chem Check on the Brown Levee Ditch project.
* Editor's note: This story has been updated from a previous version. A story Thursday misidentified a St. John Republican. Joe Hero is a GOP activist, not a member of the Munster Republican Central Committee. The Times regrets the error.