Winfield grants conditional support to South Shore extension pledge

2014-03-25T22:00:00Z 2014-03-25T23:29:06Z Winfield grants conditional support to South Shore extension pledgeSusan Erler susan.erler@nwi.com, (219) 662-5336 nwitimes.com
March 25, 2014 10:00 pm  • 

WINFIELD | The Town Council on Tuesday gave conditional approval to committing money to the South Shore Line extension.

The council voted 4-1 to pledge 25 percent of the town's proceeds from the Lake County economic development income tax to the rail line extension.

The pledge amounting to $15,347 annually was pending town support of an interlocal agreement detailing how the collective support from up to 20 municipalities would work.

The interlocal agreement is being crafted by Lake County Commissioner Michael Repay, D-Hammond, and Highland Clerk-Treasurer Michael Griffin, said Mark Lopez, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville.

Lopez spoke to the council about the proposed South Shore extension in one of a round of visits by Visclosky's team to persuade cities and towns to pledge support.

The local dollars would match commitments of $4 million from the state and $8 million from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, Lopez said.

The 8-mile South Shore Line extension from Hammond to Dyer would be an economic boon to the region, Lopez said.

"It's not so much building a train as it is building economic infrastructure for towns to take advantage of," Lopez said.

The pledge of the town's county economic development income tax dollars to the extension had support of Council President Gerald Stiener, R-at large.

"I look at it as a generational commitment. We're looking at this for our grandchildren," Stiener said.

Council members Donald Samburg and Paulette Skinner, both at-large Republicans, and James Simmons, D-at large, also voted in favor.

Councilman David Anderson, R-at large, said he would withhold support until decisions are made by Dyer, St. John and other communities in closer proximity to the extension and who stand to benefit more from it.

"If they say they're all on board, I would have no issues with it," Anderson said.

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