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Council declares RTA DOA

Possible financial obligations lead to defeat of transit authority measure.

BY ANDREW STEELE
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT -- The County Council defeated a proposal to create a Regional Transportation Authority on Tuesday, but gave first-reading approval to a less powerful Regional Transportation Committee.
    The council was expected to meet again on the issue Wednesday, with the possibility of holding a final vote on the committee.
    A coalition of ministers from the northern part of the county has attempted to transform the issue of publicly funded regional transportation into one of social justice. The Interfaith Coalition was out in force again Tuesday to try to pressure council members into creating the Regional Transportation Authority.
    Four council members would not do that, though, because of concerns about financial obligations the RTA could pass onto the county.
    Councilmen Larry Blanchard, Bernadette Costa, Thomas O'Donnell, and Donald Potrebic voted against the RTA on the grounds that it could enter obligations the county would have to pay off, potentially with a county income tax.
    Councilman Troy Montgomery, who ultimately voted in favor of the RTA, said "we are writing a blank check if we pass the RTA."
    Montgomery said he would vote for it if the Interfaith members would take responsibility if it failed. They said they would, and he took them at their word.
    The majority would not be swayed by the coalition, though.
    "I have yet to here from the people I represent (that) they want (an RTA)," Costa said.
    She said the Regional Transportation Committee, which she proposed, would be made up of exactly the same people, and would investigate the same issues, but would have strict financial limits on their programs.
    Potrebic expressed concern that an RTA's programs could force the county into creating an income tax.
    Supporters argued that there are many federal and state sources of funding that could be pursued, but only if the RTA is created.
    Council attorney Ray Szarmac confirmed the majority's fears, explaining that the state law allowing creation of the RTA did give it authority to commit to major spending.
     Also, he said the county would be obligated to pay the RTA's "organizational expenses."
     That "could be everything, it could be nothing," Szarmac said.      The Interfaith group, which has been pressuring the council for several years to create the RTA, says a public transportation system connecting the northern and southern parts of the county will open the way for citizens from northern communities to work in the southern part of the county.
    "You need our labor; we need your money," called out one Interfaith member during Tuesday's meeting.

END

Group aims for gun safety

Gun lock giveaway has mayoral, business support

BY ANDREW STEELE
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT -- Area gun owners concerned about the safety of their weapons will have the opportunity to get free trigger locks starting Monday, thanks to a program begun by local politicians and inspired by a local businessman.
    Mayor James Metros announced the initiative, called "Business Partners for Safety," which will give away at least 10,000 gun locks free to Northwest Indiana residents.
    "It's a coalition of business people as well as community leaders who are basically tired of the argument over guns," Metros said. "This isn't about suing somebody, this isn't about protesting."
    He said the group represents no political viewpoint, but wants to promote gun safety.
    The program is the brainchild of Ed Hill, who works at Blythe Sporting Goods. He said he began discussing it with other members of the Griffith Rotary Club about one year ago.
    The organization has raised about half the $50,000 it needs to purchase the 10,000 locks, Hill said.
    Metros said elected officials, the county's two political party organizations, and businesses are each contributing $500 to buy 100 gun locks.
Those will be distributed to the public from local police stations or municipal offices.
    Contributors include Metros, City Councilman Robert Corbin, Bob Anderson Pontiac, Illiana Disposal, Ameripawn, State Rep. Robert Kuzman, St. Anthony Medical Center, County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, and a variety of north county politicians and businesses.
    The program's focus is preventing children from shooting guns. Both Metros and Hill said they have sons who have gotten hold of loaded guns at home.
    Hammond Mayor Duane Dedelow noted that just before he was invited to contribute to the program, a 13year-old had been accidentally shot in Hammond.
    Metros said the response to the program has been excellent and he hopes it will spread out of the area.
    Kuzman said he will try to get the state government involved next year.
    Anyone who wants to contribute to the program can call Metros' office at 662-3240 or send a $500 donation to Business Partners for Safety, P.O. Box 539, Griffith, IN 46319.
                          
END

 

Defense gets funds for DNA consultant

Walter Richeson's trial in Brant Martin's death set for Aug. 21

BY SEAN MCNAB
Star Staff Writer

CROWN POINT -Walter Richeson, 27, stood before Judge Richard W. Maroc's court Tuesday morning in connection with the alleged homicide of Crown Point resident Brant Martin on Oct. 16, 1999.
    According to police, Martin, 29, was allegedly with Richeson and Bradley Koonce, 20, as they tried to buy marijuana at a Crown Point bar. Brant's body was found shortly after in Winfield Township on Benton Road, just north of 117th Street.
    Richesoh's newly appointed lawyer Darnail Lyles requested of Judge Maroc possibility of county funding for experts on DNA testing, blood splattering, and ballistics.
    "It seems that the state has already done this. In order for me to grant such an action, you must have a good reason for additional time and money to be spent on something that was already done," stated Judge Maroc.
    Lyles explained that it would help his client's case mentioning the fact that any photographs taken inside the vehicle in which the homicide took place would be of great relevance to these appointed experts.
    "The vehicle in question is still impounded with all photographs taken of the crime scene have been available since the case was opened," stated John Burke, the Lake County Prosecutor.
    Still not convinced on the funding of three experts for the case, Judge Maroc asked Lyles if he had anyone in mind for any of the aforementioned consultants.
    "We are looking into the DNA expert who was used in the O.J. Simpson case," stated Lyles.
    Lyles further stated that he felt that the court was misunderstanding why he asked for his own forensic specialists.
    "I think that you all are making assumptions about why I am requesting these experts. I wish granted the ability to use these proposed experts at my request. If I find that any of them are not needed, I will inform the court of that. I am not here to arbitrarily use the county's money without a valid reason."
    Burke suggested that because the county is funding this proposition, a written report should be filed with the court as to what the exact use of each expert is for.
    Lyles responded, "Under statute, you are not entitled to a report unless that person is used as a witness in this case."
    Judge Maroc granted a DNA consultant for the defendant's case and took the other two consultants, that of blood splattering and ballistics, under advisement.
    "If possible, Mr. Lyles, I would like the names and ideas of what these consultants are looking for," concluded Judge Maroc.
    The jury trial date is set for Aug. 21st with the pretrial hearing taking place 30 days prior on July 21st.
    Richeson is charged with murder and perpetration of a robbery.

 END

 

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