Casino funds cover shortfall, Gary road projects - December 23, 2016

Courtesy of Chicago Tribune • December 23, 2016 02:27 pm

By Gregory Tejeda, Post-Tribune

Gary Common Council members have approved covering a shortfall of almost $50,000 in Youth Services Bureau programs with casino funds.

City Controller Celita Green said the transfer was needed to ensure that the bureau’s 2016 budget balanced out.

The Youth Services Bureau’s summer meal program ran $49,312.46 over budget. The council voted 8-0, with Councilwoman Rebecca Wyatt, D-1st, absent, to transfer that amount from funds the city gets under a local development agreement with the Majestic Star Casino.

The casino provides the city with some $6 million annually under the agreement. The council also transferred $1.2 million from the casino fund to cover the cost of road resurfacing projects.

The council also approved an ordinance raising the salary of the Gary Human Relations Department’s executive director from $35,444 to $41,956 in 2017.

In other business, the council deferred taking action on measures that would use money raised by the wheel tax to back a bond issue that would provide as much as $13.8 million for road repairs next year.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she was concerned about so many unanswered Finance Committee questions about the matter, and she will try to provide answers before council meetings in January.

“We won’t be paving any roads during the next two months, so there is time for us to get answers and do this right,” she said.

Also, the mayor presented Gary Legends Awards to Methodist Hospitals human resources Vice President Denise Dillard and to George Rogge, who is a former Gary parks commissioner and head of the Miller Area Business Association and also of the Nelson Algren Society in Miller Beach, where the author Algren once lived for a time.

The Gary Legends honors are presented monthly to people who have lifetime accomplishments that have made the city a better place to live.

Dillard said she thinks many people underestimate Gary’s attributes.

“When the South Side sounds like it has given up on us, we know we’re still here,” she said.

Gregory Tejeda is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.