Council shuffles Merrillville stormwater board
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent January 8, 2013 9:36PM
Updated: February 10, 2013 5:56PM
MERRILLVILLE — A divided Town Council on Tuesday replaced Bud Crist as a member of the Stormwater Management Board, with some council members criticizing him for storing town equipment in his personal barn and others saying he shouldn’t be replaced while critical projects are under way.
Four council members voted to name Leonard White, a solid waste specialist with Lake County Solid Waste Management who has 34 years’ experience in environmental management, to the board, while three members voted to retain Crist, who has been president of the board since its inception eight years ago.
White said he has been a Merrillville resident for a little more than one year and wanted to serve on the board as a way to give back to the community.
“I have a love for the environment,” White said.
Crist could still return to the Stormwater Management Board, however, as the council also voted to expand the board from three to five members, with Councilman Shawn Pettit, D-6th, saying he would vote for Crist for one of the new positions.
Pettit had voted for White on Tuesday, along with Council President Carol Miano, D-3rd, and Councilmen Donald Spann, D-1st, and Tom Goralczyk, D-4th.
Crist said he didn’t know if he would apply for one of the new board positions.
Councilman Ron Widing, D-7th, said Crist has done a good job and goes “above and beyond” in his duties for the department.
“He’s storing department equipment in his heated barns on his property so we wouldn’t need to rent heated space,” said Widing, who voted for Crist to remain in his seat along with council members Richard Hardaway, D-2nd, and Chrissy Barron, D-5th.
But Spann said that is taxpayer-paid equipment and doesn’t belong on Crist’s property.
Pettit agreed. “What happens if the barn burns down with the equipment in it? What’s our liability? I appreciate the effort Bud has made, but in this day and age, it’s not good,” Pettit said.
Crist said he was asked by the Public Works department to find a new place to store the equipment, which included an off-road ATV, truck and pickup, because there was no room at the Public Works facility.
“There’s no difference if I store this on my property or on rental property. I did this as a favor. I’m sorry if it causes confusion,” Crist said.
He said all the equipment has the Stormwater Management logo so he would be detected if he used it for his own personal use.
Crist received a show of support from council members Richard Hardaway, D-2nd, and Chrissy Barron, D-5th, as well as fellow board member Barbara Ghoulson and Stormwater Utility executive director Matt Lake.
“If the Taft Street project doesn’t get done, and I don’t think it will get done without Bud Crist, then someone will have to explain to the people in that area why their property is still flooding. I won’t, because I didn’t have anything to do with it,” Barron said.
Ghoulson offered to give up her seat on the board in order to retain Crist. Lake suggested expanding the Stormwater Board if the council felt White could be an asset.
Pettit liked Lake’s idea, saying there is no one on the board now representing the town south of U.S. 30. He called for expanding the board to five members and said he would nominate Crist for one of the positions.
The council will discuss the expansion at its workshop session on Jan. 17 and could vote on an ordinance allowing the expansion at its Jan. 22 meeting.