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NWI police, environmental groups prepare for sequester cuts

The GrCalumet River flows near Calumet Avenue Wednesday Hammond.  | File Photo~Sun-Times Medi ORG XMIT: GRANDCAL 2 030310.jpg

The Grand Calumet River flows near Calumet Avenue Wednesday in Hammond. | File Photo~Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: GRANDCAL 2 030310.jpg

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Updated: April 3, 2013 6:10AM



More local groups are still trying to figure out just what the federal sequester means for them.

The White House announced a general list of cuts last weekend for Indiana, but how those cuts will filter down to Northwest Indiana remains to be seen.

Part of the state’s cuts include $262,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that go to local law enforcement groups. Police in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago have received money from the grant, including a total of $185,645 in 2012.

Hammond Lt. Rich Hoyda said his department receives money from the grant every year in September, including $75,105 last year, but the amount has recently been cut.

The department has used the money to buy radar guns, Glock training pistols, laptops and other equipment. The department doesn’t know how much, if any, money it will get this September because of the sequester.

The money is never budgeted until the department actually has it, though.

“If we get it, great, but then if we don’t get it, we’re not really budgeting on it,” he said.

Gary received $83,104 last year from the grant and also used it to buy equipment, Chelsea Whittington, city spokeswoman, said.

Save the Dunes is concerned about what the sequester will mean for local environmental projects. Executive Director Nicole Barker is headed to Washington, D.C., Tuesday, she said, to fight for funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is supposed to receive funding from the federal government through 2014. The project has already paid $1.4 million to restore areas around the Grand Calumet River, $2 million to clean local wetlands and $600,000 to fight invasive species such as Asian carp.

“We feel deeply that the investments made in the restoration could be lost, which is invaluable to our economy, should that funding lower dramatically or disappear,” Barker said.

The group is also concerned about federal funding to help Indiana communities separate storm and sanitary sewers. Indiana has the highest amount of combined-sewer communities that feed into the Great Lakes.

“We’re already so far behind to the tunes of billions of dollars,” she said.

The White House has said the country can also expect to see cuts to federal prosecutors, although Mary Hatton, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Hammond, said they have not heard what cuts, if any, they will face.

The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority has said it will likely cancel the Gary South Shore Air Show if the sequester does not end soon. The show relies on military acts, which have been canceled as part of the sequester. The U.S. Air Force announced Friday that it had canceled all of its air show acts for the 2013 fiscal year; it was unknown as of Friday afternoon if that alone would mean the end of the Gary Air Show this summer.

The sequester is also expected to shutter the air traffic control tower at Gary/Chicago International Airport.

A spokeswoman for Allegiant Air, the only passenger service based at the Gary/Chicago International Airport, said Friday If the tower is shut down prior to its scheduled hiatus from April 14 to June 2, the airline “will look at all available options to mitigate any disruption in service.”

The local Head Start education program for preschoolers also faces cuts, although those will not take place until after the current school year ends.



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