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Strong to replace Niemeyer on county council

CROWN POINT — Center Township Trustee Eldon Strong handily beat two challengers for the seventh-district Lake County Council seat in a caucus Saturday.

While there was some discrepancy in the vote totals, the final count was 35 for Strong; 24 for James Cuffia, chair of the Crown Point Republican Party; and three votes for Richard Ludlow, a Schneider town councilman and former Indiana State police officer.

Strong was endorsed by his predecessor, Rick Niemeyer of Lowell, who vacated his seat when he won election for state representative in the 11th district in the November general election.

“I’ve known Eldon for many years. He’s a good man. We’ve talked and are on the same page with the budget,” Niemeyer said after the winner was declared.

Strong said he would work with Dan Dernulc, R-4th, the only other Republican on the council, and with the five Democratic council members to do what’s best for the county.

Like the other two candidates, Strong said he won’t support the county option income tax. The state has frozen the county’s tax levy for several years because it is the only county in the state that has not passed the tax.

“I think there’s more to be done by the county to cut costs first,” Strong said.

Ludlow called himself a fiscal conservative and said he would encourage the cities, towns and county to consolidate on supplies, services and equipment to cut costs.

Cuffia said the county option income tax hasn’t helped the remainder of the state. He also believes if passed, it would hurt the county’s chances of attracting new, labor-intensive businesses.

Before declaring Strong winner, the precinct committee members at the caucus had to decide whether there should be a second vote since there were 62 ballots cast and only 60 people signed in.

In a voice vote, it sounded like only one person wanted a re-vote. Attorney Jeffery Gunning said a re-vote wasn’t needed legally or according to party rules because the two ballots wouldn’t have made a difference.

Committeeman Joe Hero said five committeemen were late because they had a difficult time finding a parking space by the Crown Point Library, where the caucus was held. He said he filed a petition to let them vote, but contended only two of the five were able to cast a ballot.

One person counting ballots denied this.



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