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Unique partnership takes aim at cleaning I-65

Speros Batistato, left, president/CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, addresses a cleanup of Lake County interchanges along Interstate 65. Looking on is William Peterson, chief of police for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, which has committed Lake County Jail trustees to do the cleanup work for this initial year of the project.

When you're expecting visitors, the first thing you do is make sure your home is presentable. That's what Lake County is doing with Interstate 65.

First impressions count.

So a team effort is aiming to clean up interchanges. Simply picking up trash is the first step toward beautification.

The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority is working with the Lake County Sheriff's Department, the Indiana Department of Transportation, municipalities and chambers of commerce to get things started.

Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore CVA, said workers will bag trash between the Borman Expressway in Gary and 109th Avenue in Crown Point. Republic Services will pick up the trash bags at no cost.

For now, Lake County Jail trusties will do the cleanup, said William Paterson, chief of police for the Lake County Sheriff's Department.

Deputy Warden Ryan Neary said 30 to 35 trusties will do the work this summer, in crews of six to a dozen at a time. None of the trusties doing the work will have had a violent criminal background, Neary said.

Neary hopes the work will begin by July 1.

Community leaders, Batistatos said, can deploy staff and municipal vehicles to help on scheduled cleanup dates.

"Hundreds of thousands of travelers will descend on the Region to visit our beaches, attractions and sporting complexes this summer," Batistatos said. "We want them to feel welcome and have a positive impression before they exit the vehicle."

Batistatos is seeking sponsorships for the project. Funds would help pay for work boots, food, safety vests, helmets and garbage bags.

Paterson stressed no taxpayer dollars will go toward the cleanup.

"This is good for the community and good for the trusties to productively use their time," Paterson said. "It could possibly change their outlook on things."

It will change visitors' outlook on the Region, too. The more attractive we make I-65, the more likely we are to attract visitors. 

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Local News Editor Marc Chase, Lake County Editor Crista Zivanovic, Porter/LaPorte County Editor Doug Ross and Deputy Local Editor Erin Orr.