Merrillville can't pursue referendum for police

2012-06-21T17:30:00Z 2012-06-22T17:17:11Z Merrillville can't pursue referendum for policeBy Chas Reilly chas.reilly@nwi.com, (219) 662-5324 nwitimes.com

MERRILLVILLE | A property tax referendum no longer is an option to increase Merrillville's police force, Clerk-Treasurer Eugene Guernsey said.

Guernsey said he was notified by Indiana's Department of Local Government Finance the town could not pursue a referendum for the purpose of hiring 10 more police officers.

Referendums for operating expenses only are allowed for schools, according to the state department.

Guernsey and other Merrillville officials were attempting to have a referendum on the ballot in November to ask residents if they would support a property tax increase to hire 10 additional officers.

The frozen levy in Lake County has prevented Merrillville from increasing the Police Department's staff, which currently has 48 officers, town leaders said.

To become a more proactive department, it's necessary to boost the size of the force, Police Chief Joseph Petruch said.

The department could receive some financial help if a proposed residential rental registration ordinance is adopted by the Town Council.

The measure would require landlords to register each rental unit they own, and the town would charge an annual $100 registration fee for each unit.

Town Administrator Howard Fink said revenue from the fee would go to public safety.

Petruch said a federal grant Merrillville received about three years ago to fund salaries and benefits for three officers expires at the end of this year.

Guernsey said the majority of funds generated from the registration fee would be used to retain the three officers. He hopes the fee will generate sufficient funding to hire an additional officer.

While the ordinance could assist the Police Department, a main objective of the measure is protecting Merrillville renters, Fink said.

He said the ordinance would require rental units to comply with the state's building code and the property maintenance code established by the International Code Council.

It also establishes procedure for the town to inspect rental units if Merrillville receives complaints about them.

Landlords would be required to correct deficiencies discovered during inspections. Merrillville could issue fines if problems aren't addressed.

Fink expects the Town Council will consider approving the first reading of the ordinance during its Tuesday meeting.

If the measure is adopted, Merrillville would wait two to three months before it begins to collect the fee to provide landlords time to prepare for it, Fink said.

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About Merrillville

Town Hall

7820 Broadway Ave. Merrillville, IN 46410
219.769.5711
Fax: 219.756.6170

Police Department

7820 Broadway Merrillville, IN 46410
Emergency: 911
Non-emergency 219.769.3531
Administration: 219.769.3722
Crime Tip Hotline: 219.756.6180 ext. 54

Fire Department

26 W. 73rd Ave. Merrillville, IN 46410
Emergency: 911
Non-emergency 219.769.0004
Fax: 219.756.6170

Parks & Recreation

5750 Tyler Place Merrillville, IN 46410
Phone: 219.980.5911

Lake County Public Library

1919 West 81st Avenue Merrillville, IN 46410
Phone: 219.769.3541

Merrillville Community School Corporation

6701 Delaware Street Merrillville, IN 46410
Phone: 219.650.5300

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