Keeping Munster a viable community for the present and future takes teamwork between the various governing bodies and the town administration.
For example, new ordinances adopted by the Munster Town Council over the last year are aimed at preserving the neighborhoods and neighborly environment for which Munster is noted.
Those public policies “help maintain the quality of life and continue to help Munster grow, attracting people and businesses, following what is set in the master plan,” says Joseph Simonetto, president of the Munster Town Council and chairman of the Munster Redevelopment Commission.
Not everything in the master plan can be accomplished in the next 20 to 30 years, he says, but “the master plan shows us ‘here’s what we want to be and we can implement various things.”
Because members of the town council and the redevelopment commission are the same, Simonetto says the plans for the town and its financial health remain in balance. In Indiana, towns are governed by the elected officials on the Town Council. That’s what gives the council both its managerial and financial responsibilities, he says.
New technology in the use of I-Pads for each council member has also been adopted to keep them constantly up-dated on everything that is proposed and handled by the town’s staff, headed by Town Manager Tom DeGiulio.
“We are better informed (as a council) but we are not micro-managing,” he says. “We can make the best possible decisions because we are well informed and we can be sure we are fiscally responsible.”
This instant communication between staff and council members enables the governing body to “have a real idea of what everything costs,” according to Simonetto, who was elected to the Town Council in November 2011, sworn in Jan. 1, 2012 and selected as council president in January 2013.
Many of the projects currently being accomplished in Munster are a direct result of the tax increment financing district that includes all the town’s major thoroughfares – Ridge Road, Calumet Avenue and 45th Street.
“We look at the TIF as an extremely valuable tool,” said Simonetto. “It gives us a lot more resources, but we must be careful about what money is coming in and when. We don’t want to spend what we don’t have.”
The Munster Redevelopment Commission controls the TIF funds and Simonetto said the commission “is a tool to implement what the council wants – to attract new businesses, improve the quality of life and the attractiveness of the town.”
Teamwork between the town’s staff, board, commissions and the Munster Town Council provides the synergy for Munster’s steady march into the future, he says.
“The Redevelopment Commission is more involved with other boards. The Munster Park Board and the Redevelopment Commission, for example, need to work together because of the two groups’ ability to issue (economic development) bonds,” Simonetto says. Bonds supply funding for a host of projects and improvements.
“During my year as president of the council, we are holding joint meetings with the Park Board to redevelop Community Park so that we know what it will cost, what money is coming in and when that money is available,” he says.
“If we can all reach a consensus, set priorities and all work together, there will be a whole lot better program,” Simonetto says.