Merrillville is a great place to shop, eat, visit, live

2013-07-28T00:00:00Z Merrillville is a great place to shop, eat, visit, liveBy Eugene Guernsey nwitimes.com
July 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

In the early 1970s, a rumor was going around that Gary wanted to annex part of unincorporated Merrillville. The citizens wanted to remain a small town, so they called all of the homeowner associations and businesses to meet at Harrison Junior High School. At the meeting they came to a consensus to have Merrillville incorporate with minimum government and lowest taxes possible.

With no party affiliation, they held their first election for the town, which was then divided into seven districts based on population. In 1971, Merrillville officially became a town under Indiana statute.

The first elected council set the town's tax rate as low as possible, with state approval to increase future taxes if needed.

Later on, the Merrillville Town Court was established by referendum. The court has two divisions, traffic/criminal misdemeanor and civil/small claims division.

Merrillville was beginning to make a name for itself as one of the best places in Indiana because of the low tax rate and being a place where a family could raise their children safely and within a good school corporation.

I raised my two sons in Merrillville, moving three times within the town. Each area we lived in was exactly what we expected as far as the safety and school environment.

I am the current Merrillville clerk-treasurer and a retired Merrillville police officer.

Over my 28 years as an officer, there were many changes. Crime has gone up with the increase in population and ever-changing economy; however, we always have had one of the finest police forces in Indiana.

Merrillville is also protected by a full-time fire department, which, up until recently, was considered to be Indiana's largest volunteer fire department.

There are 165 miles of road throughout the town, making it the fourth largest road mileage in Lake County. That much roadway requires constant maintenance by the public works and stormwater management departments.

The Merrillville Planning & Building Department enforces the town's building codes and zoning ordinances, working with developers, contractors and the public to ensure all structures in Merrillville are properly built and enhance their surroundings. This ensures Merrillville's neighborhoods and commercial districts continue to be the vibrant places they are today.

The clerk-treasurer’s office performs a variety of routine and complex supervisory, clerical and administrative duties including, but not limited to, maintaining the town’s official records and financial transactions.

There are two new departments in the clerk-treasurer’s office, senior services and passport services. Managed by Councilwoman Carol Miano, Senior Services is nonprofit volunteer operation that provides literature information and guidance to Merrillville seniors.

I implemented a passport program, so Merrillville constituents can now access a full range of passport services, including picture taking right at their own Town Hall.

Because of a state tax freeze that affected all of Lake County over the past six years, the Town Council has been faced with maintaining town excellence for an ever-expanding population.

All the town budgets are lower than they were six years ago. Employees have taken furloughs and have taken on additional job responsibilities, essentially doing more work for less pay.

We also have two council members engaged in the neighborhood crime watch program to inform citizens of various activities, as well as giving them a sense of citizenship, volunteerism and involvement. They learn how citizens can aid in keeping Merrillville a safe and desirable community.

Merrillville is launching a new community information service designed to deliver important and timely information to residents by web, email and cell phone.

Merrillville's parks and recreation department strives to enhance the quality of life by expanding availability of leisure and recreational services and promoting a clean and healthy environment.

Today, Merrillville enjoys great diversity in housing, residents and culture.  It is rich with business districts that support the 35,000 residents and 12,000 individual households. 

During any given weekday, Merrillville's daytime population grows to more than 100,000 because of shoppers and workers. Merrillville is a hub for retail trade in Northwest Indiana.

The U.S. 30 corridor between Taft and Colorado streets harbors a large concentration of big-box retailers, hotels, restaurants and automobile dealerships.

Ameriplex at the Crossroads, an industrial and technology park, opened at Broadway between 93rd Avenue and 101st Avenue in 2005. The development is designated an Indiana Certified Technology Park and includes a business incubator/technology center operated by the Purdue Research Foundation.

The town is also home to the corporate headquarters of NiSource, a Fortune 500 company, and of Centier Bank, the largest privately owned independent bank in Indiana.

Merrillville provides plenty of attractions and restaurants for visitors, offering outdoor activities such as bike trails, swimming areas, golf, a historical museum, concerts and more than 2,000 hotel rooms with easy access to interstates, diverse shopping and restaurants. Merrillville is said to have more restaurants per capita than any other community in the country.

Merrillville citizens should be proud to say they live in Merrillville because it is truly a great place to shop, eat, visit and live.

Eugene Guernsey is Merrillville's clerk-treasurer. The opinions are the writer's.

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