This is the time of the year when everyone looks back to their personal accomplishments and looks forward to resolutions for the new year.
In the coming weeks, The Times and other media will recount the important stories in news, sports, and business from 2013. I want to reflect back on a few things that have impacted our Munster community.
On a regional basis, the two most significant accomplishments would be the adoption of the Lake County Optional Income Tax and the pending E-911 Consolidation. The Illiana Expressway, another major event, is a story still to be finished.
The passage of the income tax, while not popular, is critical to the future fiscal stability of all governments in Lake County. For property owners, the income tax will provide for countywide property tax relief that will be reflected in property tax bills beginning in 2014.
Another component of the 1.5 percent income tax will provide local governments with a dedicated source of revenue devoted to police and fire services. In almost every community the budgets of the police and fire departments consume a major portion of property taxes, making it difficult to fund other needed services.
The third component is the County Economic Development Income Tax, providing local governments an opportunity to invest in capital and economic development projects that will spur growth.
Munster’s initial plan for 2014 is to hold 34 percent in reserve for the upcoming discussion of mass transit funding. The remainder is devoted to expenses for the design work of the long-awaited grade separation.
The significance of the E911 consolidation was the willingness of the cities, towns and county to work together and develop a solution to fund and operate the combined E911 center.
The Town of Munster, NIRPC, the Village of Lansing and the Lan-Oak Park District celebrated, in October, The Golden Spoke connection of the Pennsy-Greenway as it joined a common bike path in Illinois and Indiana.
The next major regional initiative will be an effort to bring mass transit to all of Northwest Indiana. The investment to develop a comprehensive bus and train system is long overdue. The lack of an integrated mass transit system that enables residents to get to good paying jobs is one of the major defects in our local economy.
One only has to look to the mass transit system serving the greater Chicago metro area to see that as trains move out to communities, economic development follows.
In 2013 we saw the completion of work in Community Park for Munster Little League and the community’s baseball leagues. In 2014, it will be Babe Ruth League’s turn for improvements.
A new hotel and several restaurants and other businesses should open in 2014. Community Hospital’s vertical expansion will be closer to completion and Franciscan Physicians Hospital will see an expansion of its Munster property.
On behalf of all employees, elected officials and hundreds of volunteers, I thank you for your continued support and a safe and happy holiday season.