Merrillville, Crown Point officials talk about successes in 2012
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent March 8, 2013 4:20PM
Updated: March 11, 2013 8:17AM
MERRILLVILLE — Municipal and school officials from Merrillville and Crown Point Friday touted their various successes and milestones during the past year despite budgetary constraints during the Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 State of the Region address.
The address and luncheon were held at the newly renovated Merrillville Town Hall.
Merrillville Councilman Shawn Pettit, D-6th, and Crown Point Mayor Dave Uran told how their communities were able to make improvements through alternate sources of finances as they struggled with a frozen tax levy.
“Financing is always a concern for us. The Town Hall renovation was done through the Broadway TIF (tax increment financing). We need to look for innovative ways to finance projects,” Pettit said.
Pettit said some deteriorating local roads were fixed through the passage of a $2 million bond. Looking to the future, he said Mississippi Street will be widened to four lanes from 83rd and 93rd, with Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission paying 80 percent of the $7 million bill and Merrillville paying 20 percent.
Uran said a $1.8 million grant secured through U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky helped pay for the renovation of West Street, from Joliet to Summit streets. Uran said Visclosky also was instrumental in the city receiving additional SWAT vests for police officers, and the Dean and Barbara White Foundation has been instrumental in building the city’s $9 million sportsplex. He said the foundation just pledged additional funds to help with phase three of the complex.
Uran said the city boasted 196 new home starts in 2012, 162 of which were for single-family residences.
“In Crown Point the forecast is good. We won’t rest on our laurels. We’ll make sure tomorrow is better than today,” Uran said.
Pettit said the town had more than $6.7 million in new construction in 2012, including five apartment buildings. He noted Aunt Millie’s Bakeries is looking to build on Mississippi Street and Modern Drop Forge should be in operation in late August or early September.
Tony Lux, retiring superintendent of Merrillville Schools, said the district consists of more than 80 percent minority students, 60 percent of whom are on the free or reduced lunch plan.
“It’s not diversity that needs to be feared. It’s poverty that needs to be feared,” Lux said. “We have a tremendous percentage of students with a wonderful home environment.”
He said Salk Elementary School has been recommended for the National Blue Ribbon designation for this year, the district boasts a 90 percent graduation rate and it has the highest percentage of students in grades four through eight passing the ISTEP test in the test’s history.
Teresa Eineman, superintendent of Crown Point Community School Corp., said the district ranks third in the state in language arts, fifth in math, and has a graduation rate of 98 percent.
She pointed out the district has two National Blue Ribbon winners — MacArthur Elementary School in Cedar Lake, which has a 50 percent poverty level, and Eisenhower Elementary in Crown Point, which has a 5 percent poverty level.
“We’re shooting for where the child will be in the future, not where they are today,” Eineman said.