Deadly robbery fuels push in M'ville for more police funding

2012-03-08T00:00:00Z 2012-03-08T10:55:04Z Deadly robbery fuels push in M'ville for more police fundingBy Chas Reilly, (219) 662-5324

MERRILLVILLE | Some town leaders want to pursue a property tax referendum to provide more funding to the Merrillville Police Department.

Sunday's slaying at Lucky Mart Foods contributed to Clerk-Treasurer Eugene Guernsey's decision to seek the referendum, he said.

Judi Simpson-Beaver, 48, of Merrillville, was shot to death during an armed robbery at the store. Jeremy Kale Blue, 20, of Merrillville, is accused of killing the woman and stealing an undetermined amount of money.

Guernsey said the department is short staffed. It's necessary to raise property taxes to hire more police officers and provide raises to the department, he said.

The town hasn't yet developed figures for the property tax referendum, Guernsey said.

Because of the preparation work, Merrillville would not be able to have its referendum on the ballot in May, he said. It could be on November's ballot, he said.

Guernsey said he has contacted Town Council members Shawn Pettit, Carol Miano and Don Spann about the referendum and they are willing to move forward with it.

A local attorney has agreed to provide free legal services to the town as it develops the proposal, Guernsey said.

Pettit said Merrillville has taken many steps to save money, including reducing staff, adjusting health insurance benefits and privatizing its emergency medical services, but the town needs more financial assistance to improve public safety.

"I don't know what else we can do," Pettit said.

He said the Police Department is doing a "phenomenal job" protecting the town on limited funds. He agrees more money is needed to increase the police force.

Pettit also would like the property tax referendum to increase funding for improving Merrillville's infrastructure, he said.

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