EVEN MORE LAKE COUNTY HEAD­LINES

Post-Tribune - - Front Page - BY CAR­RIE NAPOLEON Spe­cial to the Tri­bune

Con­tro­versy and co­op­er­a­tion were key words in 2014 as Lake County of­fi­cials worked to con­sol­i­date emer­gency dis­patch ser­vices, plot a new bis­tate road­way and re­lo­cate the iconic South Shore Air Show.

Air show grounded, fly­ing back to Gary

A plan by the South Shore Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Au­thor­ity to move the South Shore Air Show from Mar­quette Park in Gary to Fair Oaks Farm in New­ton County sparked con­tro­versy and crit­i­cism. Mother Na­ture, how­ever, had the last word.

In­tense spring and sum­mer rains flooded the fields where the tourism bureau had hoped to stage the event.

The move was ex­pected to help the tourism bureau mon­e­tize park­ing to help off­set the costs of the event, which has lost about $160,000 each year. Tourism of­fi­cials called off the event a week be­fore it was set to take flight after it was de­ter­mined the fields would be too wet for at­ten­dees and their ve­hi­cles.

The ini­tial plan to move the air show drew the ire of Ham­mond Mayor Thomas McDer­mott who took to so­cial me­dia to lam­bast the South Shore CVA, Speros Batis­tatos, its pres­i­dent and CEO, and its board of direc­tors. The con­tro­versy died after the can­cel­la­tion.

In Novem­ber, Batis­tatos said an air show was not on the tourism board’s radar for 2015. Shortly fol­low­ing that an­nounce­ment, Gary Mayor Karen Free­man-Wilson an­nounced she planned to host the air show on the city’s lake­front with the help of sev­eral Gary/Chicago In­ter­na­tional Air­port busi­nesses. Il­liana rolls over op­po­si­tion

Plans for the Il­liana Toll Road re­ceived a nec­es­sary thumbs up from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to al­low the process to con­tinue de­spite a large and vo­cal op­po­si­tion.

The Fed­eral High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion signed the Il­liana Cor­ri­dor Tier Two Record of Decision in early

De­cem­ber end­ing the plan­ning phase and throw­ing the agency’s support be­hind the trans­porta­tion need for the project so im­ple­men­ta­tion can be­gin.

How­ever, de­trac­tors say the bat­tle against the road­way is not over as the process con­tin­ues to move for­ward.

“It’s just fur­ther in­tim­i­da­tion,” said Pa­tri­cia Muss­man of West Creek Town­ship, at the time. Muss­man has been lead­ing the charge against the Il­liana in In­di­ana. She said the fate of the pro­posed new toll road ul­ti­mately will rest in the hands of Illinios’ new gov­er­nor, Repub­li­can Bruce Rauner.

The Record of Decision ap­proves the anal­y­sis of its en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts, as well as any mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts and con­curs with the se­lected route al­ter­na­tive for the new 50-mile high­way that will run from In­ter­state 55 near Wilm­ing­ton, Illi­nois, to In­ter­state 65 near Low­ell.

It also means land ac­qui­si­tion ef­forts, in­clud­ing landowner re­la­tions and lo­cal plan­ning ac­tiv­i­ties, also can con­tinue.

Solid waste dis­trict trashes di­rec­tor’s con­tract

Long­time Lake County Solid Waste Dis­trict Di­rec­tor Jeff Lang­behn found him­self at the cen­ter of con­tro­versy after board mem­bers learned of a gift for an em­ployee bought on the tax­pay­ers’ dime.

Of­fi­cials ini­tially sup­ported Lang­behn’s pur­chase of what was de­scribed as a $600 brief­case for an em­ployee who earned an ad­vanced de­gree and would be us­ing the item for work pur­poses.

How­ever, as de­tails of the pur­chase of what was a Michael Kors purse and ac­ces­sories sur­faced, as well as re­ceipts of other pur­chases deemed in­ap­pro­pri­ate by waste dis­trict board mem­bers, of­fi­cials took Lang­behn to task, ul­ti­mately ter­mi­nat­ing his con­tract.

A search is un­der way for a new di­rec­tor. For­mer Deputy Di­rec­tor Jeanette Ro­mano is serv­ing as the dis­trict’s in­terim di­rec­tor.

Quarry op­po­nents dig in for fight

Op­po­nents of the pro­posed Sin­gle­ton Quarry in south Lake County con­tinue to fight against the plan they say will dam­age prop­erty val­ues, ruin valu­able farm­land and risk the lo­cal wa­ter sup­ply.

Ap­proval of the plan was granted by a Lake County spe­cial drainage board de­spite op­po­si­tion from ev­ery elected of­fi­cials rep­re­sent­ing the area where the quarry will be sited. State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Low­ell, County Coun­cil­man El­don Strong, R-Crown Point, Lake Com­mis­sioner Gerry Scheub, DCrown Point and var­i­ous town­ship of­fi­cials spoke out against the plan.

Scheub was re­moved by the courts from the drainage board in mat­ters re­lat­ing to the quarry due to con­flict of in­ter­est. The spe­cial drainage board ap­proved the quarry drainage per­mit 2-1.

The Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources is ex­pected to make a decision on the first of sev­eral nec­es­sary per­mits in early 2015.

Jail close to com­pli­ance

The Lake County Jail is inch­ing closer to com­pli­ance with a Depart­ment of Jus­tice man­date re­quir­ing in­creased staffing and im­proved con­di­tions at the fa­cil­ity.

Lake County Sher­iff John Bun­cich said the jail is 75 per­cent com­pli­ant with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice man­date stem­ming from the 2011 set­tle­ment of a law­suit filed by in­mates in 2007 claim­ing in­hu­mane con­di­tions and in­ad­e­quate health care while the jail was un­der the ad­min­is­tra­tion of for­mer Sher­iff Roy Dominguez.

“Almost half of the de­fi­cien­cies cited orig­i­nally have been elim­i­nated by the court as sat­is­fied,” Bun­cich said at the time.

Change in Demo­cratic Party lead­er­ship June saw changes in the lead­er­ship of the Lake County Demo­cratic Party.

Sher­iff John Bun­cich took over as chair­man of the sec­ond strong­est Demo­cratic or­ga­ni­za­tion in the state in a tight cau­cus run-off against Gary Mayor Karen Free­man-Wilson. Ham­mond Mayor Thomas McDer­mott Jr. an­nounced he was leav­ing the post to fo­cus on his fam­ily and the city.

Bun­cich said un­der his lead­er­ship he plans to “in­vig­o­rate” the party and cre­ate an at­mos­phere of in­clu­sion. He plans to open the lines of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion and get more peo­ple in­volved as the party looks to re­gain seats lost to Repub­li­cans in re­cent years.

The party was suc­cess­ful in re­claim­ing the Lake County As­ses­sor’s of­fice after a Repub­li­can, the late Hank Adams won the seat in 2010. It was the first time a Repub­li­can was seated to a county wide of­fice in more than 50 years.

Jerome Prince, who chose to run for as­ses­sor in­stead of seek re-elec­tion to the County Coun­cil, re­claimed the seat for Democrats.

County di­als in on E911 con­sol­i­da­tion

Con­sol­i­da­tion of Lake County’s 17 pub­lic safety an­swer­ing points into

one E-911 dis­patch cen­ter took large strides for­ward in 2014 but will not meet the Dec. 31 state dead­line for the ef­fort.

Fif­teen of the 17 units have signed on to par­tic­i­pate in the con­sol­i­da­tion, with St. John join­ing the ef­fort in a last-minute split-decision by its town coun­cil Dec. 23. Only Cedar Lake and Scher­erville re­main to join the con­sol­i­da­tion and ap­pear to be mov­ing for­ward with their own sep­a­rate joint dis­patch cen­ter.

Brian Hitch­cock, Lake County 911 di­rec­tor, said while ev­ery ef­fort was made to meet the dead­line, con­struc­tion of the fa­cil­ity only be­gan in earnest ear­lier this year after 14 units signed the agree­ment. Hitch­cock said the con­sol­i­da­tion is ex­pected to be com­plete some­time in March.

Linda Cos­grove of He­bron speaks about air qual­ity con­cerns dur­ing a pub­lic meet­ing on Tues­day, Septem­ber 16, 2014 at He­bron High School

Bun­cich

| ERIN GAL­LAGHER

In­di­ana state Rep. Rick Neimeyer speaks to res­i­dents who trav­eled to Peotone, Ill., for the Il­liana protest.

Jeff Lang­behn

| CAR­RIE NAPOLEON

Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tor Au­thor­ity pres­i­dent and CEO Speros Batis­tatos and Fair Oaks Farms CEO Gary Cor­bett stand in a soggy field near the area where the beer gar­den at the South Shore Air Show would have been in New­ton County.

| CAR­RIE NAPOLEON

Work­ers ready 50-foot sec­tions of the 200-foot E-911 com­mu­ni­ca­tions tower go­ing up at the Lake County Gov­ern­ment Cen­ter in Crown Point.

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