INDIANAPOLIS | Legislation funding Little Calumet River levee maintenance and changing the distribution of property taxes between Griffith and Calumet Township will have to wait until next year.
Supporters were unable to find a new home for both proposals before the General Assembly adjourned for the year Friday night. The Senate pulled each from their original legislation Thursday.
State Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, and state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, were turned down by Senate leaders Friday morning when they tried to win approval for a temporary per-parcel fee. The fee for levee maintenance would have been used until a conservancy district with its own funding source could be established.
"This is a sad day," Mrvan said. "It puts a lot of people in jeopardy for at least a year and half."
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and Lake County Surveyor George Van Til believe a new conservancy district empowered to act on long-delayed maintenance work can be established in six to eight months.
Candelaria Reardon doesn't buy that claim.
"Advocates of the conservancy district have had 30 years to put a conservancy district together, and now that we're at crunch time they're going to point fingers and say what is a better solution," she said.
State Rep. Dan Stevenson, D-Highland, said he was disappointed Griffith residents will be forced to continue paying $3 million a year to Calumet Township and receiving less than $20,000 in services.
His plan would have created a four-year pilot program in which Griffith no longer would pay township taxes but would provide township services on its own.
"We had an opportunity to implement something today, and politics is getting in the way of it," Stevenson said. "People should come before politics."
Advocates were able to ensure the Griffith-Calumet Township issue will be the subject of a legislative study committee this summer.
State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said a study committee is the best outcome.
"At the end of that legislative process, then I think whatever recommendations the study committee makes would be a more balanced solution to the problem," Rogers said.
The tax exemption was slated to take effect in July 2012. Griffith Councilman Rick Ryfa said he will push to keep that start date once the study is completed.