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Gary council wants more locals hired on public works projects

Updated: May 8, 2013 11:15AM



GARY — The city plans to hold the Regional Development Authority’s feet to the fire and demand it hire more residents to the public works projects it funds.

The Common Council at its Tuesday night meeting voted 7-0, with 5th District Councilwoman Kim Robinson absent, to approve a resolution supporting the Community Benefits Agreement. The proposed agreement, created and cosigned by the Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations and the Interfaith Clergy Council of Gary, would have residents trained to meet the requirements of airport contractors used in the Gary/Chicago International Airport runway expansion as well as other anticipated public works projects.

Additionally, the coalition would monitor the progress to make sure at least 30 percent of the hiring is from “disparaged areas,” particularly Gary in the airport’s case. As it stands, the Regional Development Authority has set the minority- and women-owned business enterprise quotas at 15 percent minority and 5 percent women-owned, and has established that the hirees would be Northwest Indiana-based instead of Gary-based.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who said she has supported the proposal from its inception, said that while the agreement will clearly help Gary, Hammond and East Chicago, it will also benefit the region as a whole in ways perhaps not originally considered.

“The agreement covers people in disparaged areas, so that includes people in Lake and Porter counties,” Freeman-Wilson said. “It’ll be appropriate to look at the census tracks of both counties in addition to the ZIP codes in order to really carve out that that’s the case.”

The mayor also pointed to the budget just passed by the Indiana General Assembly that has a provision for job training using leftover funding from the Major Moves initiative that could be used.

The Rev. Dwight Gardner, president of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations, said he was pleased the council and Freeman-Wilson expressed their dissatisfaction at the RDA’s minority-hiring practices.

“The cities pay $3.5 million in gaming funds and procure almost no work for its citizens,” Gardner says. “There continues to be hope that today’s decision is part of a groundswell that ultimately moves the RDA to enter into the agreement.”

In other business, the council voted 6-1, with Councilman Michael Protho, D-2, abstaining, to reappoint Oliver Gilliam to his seat on the Police Commission. That seat had been vacant for more than a year, though Gilliam continued to hold the seat.

Vice President Ron Brewer said with “heated situations” going on in the Police Department, it’s important to have the commission whole. Protho said he abstained from the vote because he hadn’t gotten the impression an appointment to the seat was important.

Six Gary police officers face criminal charges, including five facing felonies. Sgt. Wayne Brazelton and Patrolman Jennifer Powell are charged with fraud and theft; Patrolman Marla Guye is charged with trafficking marijuana; and Sgt. Jarrett Bridgeman and Patrolman Demonte Yanders are charged with battery. Patrolman Terry Peck is charged with misdemeanor battery.



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