Archive for October, 2009

Oct 19 2009

County Courts and Downtown Hammond

Published by Tom McDermott Jr. under General

I understand as much as anyone the need to cut back local government spending in these difficult economic times. Recently, a proposal at the county level has arisen that needs to be reconsidered and hopefully refused.

The County Commissioners have announced their intentions to potentially close the satellite courts and the offices that serve them throughout Northern Lake County. This would mean the current county offices at 232 Russell Street in Hammond would become empty. We cannot allow this to happen.

First off, we have to recognize the benefit of having the county court in Hammond to the local taxpayers. This building served an important role in last years historic election, as a satellite early voting faculty. And without an existing consistent regional mass transit system, forcing everyone to go to South County for government service would make it virtually impossible for some to have any reasonable access to their county government.

Next, we have to look at the potential economic effects of this loss on its immediate surroundings. Downtown Hammond has long been under served as a business community. In my 6 years in office, I have worked very hard at bringing that community back to Downtown Hammond. Progress has been slow, but steady, and the area has been gradually coming back. However this proposal to close the County Building in Hammond could bring all of that progress to a halt, and could take a vital link out of the economic food chain of that area.

The County Building currently has three court rooms in it. The County Clerk, Sheriff, Treasurer and Commissioners all have offices in that building as well. Beyond that, there are over a dozen law offices in that immediate area, that are there specifically to serve the County Court, as well as the Federal Courthouse in Hammond. Between all of the employees and patrons of the County building and offices that serve it, thousands of people are in Downtown Hammond every day.  These people are a large part of the customer base that the local restaurants and shops depend on to stay in business. If you take away the Hammond County Court building, you take away one of the biggest economic assets in Downtown Hammond.

Yes, consolidating the County Court system may in fact reduce county payroll cost and may result in a few pennies of annual savings for property tax payers throughout the county. But the economic cost of shuttering more businesses in Downtown Hammond, and more private sector jobs leaving Hammond because of it, simply isn’t worth those few pennies.

And has anyone looked at the cost of building new structures, or the renovation of the current government center in Crown Point to accommodate the moved courts?

This is a plan that would be very destructive to the City of Hammond, and as the Mayor I must strongly oppose it. I hope you will share that opposition with me, and respectfully let your elected county officials know of your opposition.  Feel free to contact my office to get the contact information on your Lake County Commissioner.

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