Hobart mayor calls for city unity in face of double drowning
HOBART — Mayor Brian Snedecor said Friday the city needs to show support for the family of two young brothers who drowned last week in a water-filled pit, adding results of an ongoing police investigation should answer questions about the pit itself.
“Whether anything was done illegally will be disclosed by the investigation,” said Snedecor, who had just returned from speaking at a conference of mayors causing him to be gone most of the week.
“The investigation will give us answers about the hole,” he said.
Randy Goldschmidt, a Hobart contractor who did excavation work at the site, last year applied for and received fill permits to improve two other lots on Missouri Street. But city officials said no permits were taken out for the lot where the pit was dug.
Officials have said Goldschmidt had approached the city about possibly putting a fishing pond on the site, but decided not to pursue it. He never applied for a permit or to be on a plan commission agenda.
According to a city ordinance, it’s unlawful for anyone to excavate sand, black dirt, gravel or other materials on or from any city property without obtaining a permit. The ordinance also states that the application shall be referred to the city’s engineer, who would make sure the excavation would not damage adjacent land, lower the value of surrounding property or impair the safety, health or general welfare of the public.
Snedecor said the city needs to be unified in its support of the Smith family of Gary, who lost brothers Terrion Smith, 8, and Donel Smith, 9, both of whom drowned in the pond at 4060 Missouri St.
When asked if that would include financial support, Snedecor said there is only so much the city can legally do.
Some people marching from the site of the drownings to the boys’ Gary home Wednesday night to raise money to bury the brothers said they thought the city of Hobart should help pay the expense. They noted the boys’ family could not afford the cost on its own.
The boys’ mother, Tatiana Smith, said she needs to raise the money by July 1. She organized Wednesday’s march and said she would keep having marches until enough money is donated to bury her sons, hopefully on July 3.
In another matter, Snedecor denied Goldschmidt’s claim that he lost a contract to demolish the buildings on the former St. Sava Church hall site due to politics.
Goldschmidt said he was told by a GEO representative that he had the job, but later was informed he lost it for political reasons.
The GEO Co., a builder and operator of for-profit immigrant detention centers and prisons that owns the property, said it awarded the contract to Boyd Construction of Hobart.
“This morning was the first time I heard that Randy put a bid in for the project,” Snedecor said.
Snedecor said he received a call from a GEO official a couple days after someone set fire to the former church hall saying the company had hired Boyd to board up the building and it would be demolishing all the buildings on the site.
Zoning Administrator Carrol Lewis said Goldschmidt had applied for a fill permit for the GEO job, but it was denied because the fill would have included bricks and other material, which wouldn’t be considered clean fill under city ordinance.