Van Til at work while grand jury meets
By Rich Bird Post-Tribune correspondent August 15, 2012 3:44PM
Updated: September 17, 2012 1:00PM
CROWN POINT — About the same time that one of his key staff members was scheduled to appear before a federal grand jury in Hammond, Lake County Surveyor George Van Til was standing tall before the Board of Commissioners doing what he does best — talking storm water.
Van Til’s office has been under scrutiny by federal investigators who raided his office in last month, seizing computers and documents. Although officials with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office have not said what they were looking for, at least two members of Van Til’s staff were subpoenaed to testify Wednesday morning, including drainage Administrator Dan Gossman.
Van Til didn’t talk about that, though, instead focusing on a roughly $33,000 request related to a pair of failed pumps at the Hartsdale pond on Kennedy Avenue north of Schererville.
The pond, which collects overflow from the Spring Street Ditch, requires the pumps to move the flow north along the ditch into Highland. Those waters flow to the Cady and Hart ditches before ending at the Little Calumet River. Without the pumps, the pond can overflow and flood nearby businesses and homes, Van Til said.
“Some beavers or muskrats or some other beasts ate through the wires on one pump, and on the other pump, the impeller was badly bent,” he said.
The pumps, which are roughly 10 years old, were installed when the surveyor’s office installed a low-flow ditch along the pond to improve flow.
The commissioners approved the request to pay for the equipment from a cumulative capital fund.
Commissioner Roosevelt Allen Jr., whose district includes areas in the northern part of the county with a history of flooding, thanked Van Til for addressing many of those issues. Allen also noted that a ribbon-cutting is scheduled this week to mark the completion of a flood control project in the Ranburn Woods area.
“I always don’t like to necessarily brag like that,” Van Til said, to laughter from the room. “You always read headlines about flooding. If there were headlines for not flooding and saving, there would have been plenty.”
In addition to the looming federal probe, Van Til has been taking weekly hits from his Republican opponent in the upcoming general election. Eric Krieg has raised questions about Van Til’s campaign contributions from office employees and companies that do business with the county; questioned whether the office has qualified personnel; and suggested that the office’s failure to address ditches in Griffith may have led to positive tests for West Nile virus.
Most recently, Krieg has accused the surveyor’s office of paying a contractor for work — coincidentally, on the Spring Street Ditch — that was not completed to specifications. Krieg has posted documents to support his accusations on this Facebook page, “Eric Krieg for Lake County Surveyor (Indiana).”
Van Til has previously responded to the accusations by saying Krieg’s weekly releases are riddled with factual errors, indicating his inexperience and ignorance of the work the office does.