The City of Hammond Board of Public Works & Safety has now heard eight requests for an exception to the city’s recently enacted ordinance that closes all gas stations in the city from midnight – 5 a.m. The ordinance, which passed the City Council and was signed by Mayor Thomas M. McDermott, Jr., into law in late August, allows for affected gas stations to petition for an exception.
Since its enactment fourteen stations have petitioned for an exception and eight have been heard. The ordinance takes effect on November 1st and the city is attempting to hear all requests before that date. “I know the Board of Public Works has been busy hearing these matters and they’ve set special meeting date to accommodate the requests,” said Mayor McDermott.
The hearings look into the amount of police calls to the station focusing on the last twenty-four months as well as examining the cameras and security at the stations. Other factors include lighting, zoning and code violations, business licensing, the proximity of the stations to the interstate to serve travelers, and any other safety concerns. “On the city’s behalf we are trying to paint a full picture to the board of each station to see where the problems are and where they aren’t. It gives the board the ability to hear from the owners and the city,” said Kevin Smith, Corporation Counsel for the city.
The police department over the last year has implemented the FUSUS system for businesses that choose to participate. This system allows police officers to view the cameras at a station in real time when a crime or issue is reported from the business location. “This is a tool that is becoming extremely useful to our department to help prevent and solve criminal activity throughout the city. Even our patrol vehicles can access these cameras on the way to a call,” said Hammond Police Chief William Short.
A by-product of the gas station exception hearings has been increased focus on security and safety at the station. “Before we passed this ordinance and had the exception hearings, many of these stations weren’t on FUSUS, didn’t have sufficient camera systems, and had zoning and ordinance violations that weren’t being corrected. This process is bringing them into compliance and in the process making both the city and the gas stations safer,” said Mayor McDermott.
So far, three locations have been granted exceptions, 3350 Calumet, 7305 Kennedy, and 7452 Indianapolis Boulevard. Several others are awaiting rulings from the Board, while one location, 403 Gostlin withdrew its request for an exception due to a prior agreement with the city to be closed overnight. “The system we’ve established is working. I want to thank those councilmembers that voted in favor of this ordinance to make our city safer and to support the police department,” said the mayor. The ordinance passed 7-2.