Griffith Town Officials Await Decision On Secession
A bill making its way through the state legislature could determine whether a northwest Indiana town gets to secede from Calumet Township. The Lakeshore’s Renetta Dubose tells us why Griffith leaders are petitioning to join an adjacent township … and why Calumet Township’s trustee says the entire argument is false.
Renetta Dubose: The town of Griffith wants out of Calumet Township. Griffith Councilman Rick Ryfa says the more than five year plan to secede from one of the largest townships in the state boils down to three issues: taxes…management…and money.
Rick Ryfa: A lot of salaries in that office. A lot of high travel expenses. Doing everything but helping the poor people that need it.
Ryfa says Griffith has been reorganizing since 2007 because the town opposes ten percent of its residents’ property tax bills going to Calumet Township. Ryfa says a bill in the Indiana General Assembly would help Griffith secede from Calumet Township and join an adjacent one. Senator Brandt Hershman told the Lakeshore’s Steve Walsh that his amendment to a house bill would address how a township administers poor relief. Townships would have to cut programs that help people … such as utility assistance …within three years or face a state manager.
Brandt Hershman: Poor relief was meant to be a limited and temporary path to assistance, not an ongoing subsidy.
State Representative Hal Slager…a Republican from Schererville… sponsored the bill in the House. While he does not agree with the Senate amendment that restructures assistance, he says the issue is how dollars are spent. Ryfa says he would like to see aspects of both the House bill and the Senate amendment pass the legislature so that Griffith’s change can happen within the year.
Rick Ryfa: It won’t be the legislative body of Griffith that decides…it will be voters. 30% of all voters must sign the petition in order to get a referendum on the ballot. Then 2/3 of voters must vote yes.
While Ryfa claims voters want to join either North, Saint John or Ross Townships … Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin contends Griffith residents say this is Ryfa’s fight alone, and the accusations that administrative dollars are not being spent as they should be is based on inaccurate figures.