Sheriff responds to thunder in streets, sky

2013-07-02T17:30:00Z 2013-07-09T14:34:07Z Sheriff responds to thunder in streets, skyBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
July 02, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Natural and man-made calamities are adding up to a lot of Lake County police overtime this summer.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich told a workshop session of the Lake County Council on Tuesday he will ask later this year for more money to compensate county police officers working overtime to back up hard-pressed municipal police departments in Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, Whiting, Schererville and part of Dyer.

The sheriff said his department had to temporarily take over 911 calls from several of those communities in the wake of recent storms that caused widespread power outages.

His officers also have assisted Gary and East Chicago police responding to street gang violence, he said.

"These gang members killed two on one street, and then someone retaliated the next night. It's only going to get worse," Buncich said.

Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, questioned whether cities and towns could reimburse the county.

"I know we can't bill them, but is there some way to recover this?" he asked.

The sheriff said he didn't have an answer for Strong, but "we can't just turn our backs on them."

The sheriff said the jail's corrections officers also are amassing large amounts of unbudgeted overtime because of understaffing.

The council plans to appropriate nearly $1.2 million at its regular meeting Tuesday to shore up the county police pension system and $2.45 million for the county's insurance plan.

The county is preparing to accept bids next week from vendors who will reconstruct the Columbia Avenue bridge over the Little Calumet River between Hammond and Munster at an estimated cost of $1.5 million.

Duane Alverson, highway engineer for the county highway department, said the county also will be taking bids for $1.5 million work on the Calhoun Street bridge over the Little Calumet River in Gary and $575,000 for the Morse Street bridge over McConnell Ditch in Lowell.

The council is preparing to pay Nexus Group, an Indianapolis consulting firm, $1.1 million for reassessing the tax value of 124,000 properties across the county.

Ned Kovachevich, director of the county planning department, said the county is preparing to demolish about 20 derelict houses in unincorporated Calumet Township and outside Crown Point, Dyer, Griffith, Schererville and Shelby.

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