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McDermott details projects eyed for Hammond's American Rescue Plan funds
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McDermott details projects eyed for Hammond's American Rescue Plan funds

HAMMOND — The city is looking to use its $51.39 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan on shovel-ready projects.

During a Monday Hammond Common Council meeting, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. presented a proposed spending plan for $38 million, nearly 75%, of the city's allocation.

McDermott thanked President Joe Biden and U.S. Reps. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, and André Carson, D-Indianapolis, before presenting the proposed plan, which gives the city the ability to start work on the projects "right off the bat."

"So we put forth, like I said, a list of projects that we've had in the hopper, but we haven't had the money to pay for them," McDermott said. "The American Rescue Plan, in my opinion, is a godsend."

The council unanimously passed ordinance 21-30, on first and second reading, which would distribute the funds, and also unanimously adopted resolution 21R-25, which lays out the initial community investment plan for the funds.

A public hearing for the ordinance has been set for Sept. 27.

"This outlines the funding that we have already received, $25.69 million, and it's already been deposited in our ARP fund. ... I believe mayor went through all of the projects that we will be able to do as the result of getting this money, and so we should be very excited and grateful," said Councilwoman Janet Venecz, D-At large, who sponsored both the resolution and ordinance. 

As presented Monday, the spending plan focuses on infrastructure, and doesn't include premium pay, or bonuses, for employees, which is allowed under the American Rescue Plan.

The longtime mayor apologized to the council for a city employee who called council members, "begging them for a bonus."

"Quite frankly, Hammond city employees are paid pretty well, overall. In fact, I find employees in other cities and towns coming to our city all the time because of better equipment, better pay," McDermott said.

"I'm shocked that an employee would lobby on behalf of the city of Hammond to try to get bonuses out of the ARP money. I'm totally opposed to that."

New subdivisions, reimagined downtown

As presented Monday, the plan includes $4 million for lead remediation in Robertsdale. The allocation would cover 80% of the cost for the project, which has been pending in Robertsdale for "quite some time," McDermott said.

The city also is earmarking funds to transform the now-closed Clark High School, a project that has been "at least 10 years" in the making, McDermott said.

A new fire station No. 2, similar to the Hessville fire station, would be constructed on the old Clark tennis courts, with $3.5 million set aside for the project, while $3 million will go toward erecting a new residential neighborhood at Clark.

"We have identified over 100 parcels we could use for new single family homes in that area, including new condos along Calumet Avenue," McDermott said.

Funds to reimagine downtown Hammond and downtown Hessville also have been proposed in the spending plan, with $5 million to go toward the reconstruction of Hohman Avenue in downtown Hammond, as outlined in the city's downtown master plan created by a team led by urban planner Jeff Speck. 

A similar project inspired by Speck is slated for downtown Hessville between the 6400 block and the 6900 block of Kennedy Avenue. The plan also has a $5 million allotment. 

"We'll begin work on Kennedy Avenue and downtown Hammond at the same time, because both of them are facing the same types of problems, which is ridiculously high speeds, lack of parking and people using it as a cut through," McDermott said.

Also eyed for Hessville is a new bridge to get residents over a rail crossing near the intersection of Kennedy Avenue and 169th Street. The city has proposed to designate $3.6 million in American Rescue Plan funds toward the project, which is being done with the state. McDermott estimates the new bridge will cost more than $10 million.

Hammond, in collaboration with the town of Munster and the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission, is set to construct a new pedestrian bridge on Calumet Avenue between Munster and Hammond.

The city has allotted $3.5 million for the project, with the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission contributing $1 million. Munster also is committing funds for the project.

Half of the city's $10 million commitment for a new YMCA next to the Hammond Sportsplex, $5 million, also is included in the proposed plan. McDermott said the other $5 million will come from tax increment financing district funds.

Also included in the plan is:

  • $1.3 million for software and cyber security updates
  • $1 million toward the reconstruction of Oxbow Road
  • $1 million toward repairs to the Columbia Avenue water tank
  • $800,000 for a new single-family residential development on Florida Avenue in Hessville
  • $500,000 for a new storm sewer in the 7000 block of Schneider Street, which McDermott said is a flood-prone area in the city
  • $400,000 for Hammond Common Council Chamber technology updates
  • $400,000 for the reconstruction of J.F. Mahoney Drive

McDermott said work on the projects could begin as soon as this spring. Once the funds are allocated by the council, McDermott told The Times the city plans to "move expeditiously," to work on bids for the projects.

The projects, he said, are in addition to capital improvement and other projects in the city's districts, as well as an 8-mile West Lake extension of the South Shore commuter rail line

"It's going to be a very busy year, which is great. A lot of people are going to be working. It's great for everybody. The unions are going be full employment. Vendors are going to be working. It's a good thing for the economy," McDermott said.

"That's why when we got the money from the federal government, that's why we wanted to make sure 100% of it was used on infrastructure."

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South Lake County Reporter

Mary Freda is the South Lake County reporter at The Times. She is a proud Ball State graduate, where she studied news journalism and Spanish. You can reach Mary at mary.freda@nwi.com or 219-853-2563.

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