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Walkway will link north end to city

By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor

   CROWN POINT -  Work began this week on a long-sought goal of officials from the north end of the city - a pedestrian way that will provide walkers, bikers and skaters access to the central part of the city.
  But "we've always been separated up here," he said.
   Roth said the Merrillville Road route is the best for north end residents.
   "I think
it's going to be a quick and safe passage to the downtown," she said.
   City Engineer Jeff Ban said the path is intended for walkers, bikers and skaters.
   It will cross Beaver Dam Ditch by bridge, then angle back along the ditch before turning south again along Merrillville Road near the wastewater treatment plant.
   The bridge and the link between the ditch and the entrance to Jewel will be phase two of the project, and the northern leg between 93rd Avenue and 97th Place will be the third phase, Ban said.
   The path will be decorated by landscaped planter islands at intersections, which will also block motorized vehicles from the path, Ban said.
   The project will cost a total of $100,000, he added. The stretch from Goldsborough to the Jewel entrance will be financed by $45,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds; the remainder will be paid for out of various funds in the city budget.
   The path is expected to be completed next year.

photo by Gene Milkowski/Star

Karen Schrum, center, and other members of YES, the group in favor of constructing a new Crown Point High School, applaud when learning that they collected more signatures than the anti-build group, SOS.

Residents say YES to school
But Nikolich threatens to challenge petitions

By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor
   CROWN POINT - Supporters of construction of a new high school celebrated victory last week in the petition contest on the project's future even as opponents planned their next effort to block it.
   The YES campaign, which supports construction, collected 6,683 valid signatures from local property owners, Lake County Auditor Peter Benjamin announced Oct. 6. The opposition SOS campaign collected 5,030 valid signatures.
   "It's an understatement to say this is a tremendous day for the city of Crown Point," Superintendent H. Steve Sprunger said.
   "The YES campaign is elated with the outcome of the petition drive," said its chairman, Karen Schrum. 
   "The support for the new high school was solid throughout our community, from young singles to parents to elderly senior citizens."
School Board President Jackie Webster said the public sent a clear statement of support.
   "To win by this margin is an overwhelming statement about the forward looking vision of our communities," she said.
   But SOS leader Michel Nikolich said the omission of one word from the petition in favor of the project makes the month-long drive invalid.
   The opposition's attorney, Michael O'Brien, pointed out that the "no" petition stated that the bonds that would be sold to finance construction would be paid back over "a term of 27 years and a maximum annual rental of $8,230,000."
   But the "yes" petition did not include the word "annual." Nikolich said some people may have signed the petition thinking that the total cost - not the annual cost - would be a maximum of $8,230,000.
   "It's misleading and deceiving," Nikolich said of the "yes" petition. "It's an invalid petition."
   But supporters suggested the mistake was harmless.
   "No harm, no foul," said Sprunger."
   Historically, the courts have viewed these as insignificant situations," he continued. "We plan to move forward. We will be breaking ground come February."
   Benjamin, who said the mistake was not made in his office, also claimed that it was insignificant.
   "This isn't a nuclear physics problem," he said, arguing that the people who signed the "yes" petition knew what they were doing.
 One YES campaign petition carrier said no one he talked to mentioned the petition's wording.
   "Nobody ever asked (about) this," said Joseph Michalik. "They knew what it was going to cost in the first place."
   Michalik said he collected 145 signatures and he will do it again if he has to.
   Nikolich said his group will take whatever action is available to have the results of the petition drive invalidated.
   A victory by new school proponents would allow the project to proceed as planned. A victory by opponents would halt the project, though the School Board would be able to start the process again in one year.
   The new school issue now goes to the State Board of Tax Commissioners for its approval, and opponents can remonstrate against the project at that body's public hearing. A lawsuit is also possible.
   Sprunger said the tax board hearing will be Nov. 18.
   Benjamin said a total of 12,991 signatures were submitted to the auditor's office.
   Among the 7,435 signatures on "yes" petitions, 752 were ruled invalid. Among 5,556 signatures on "no" petitions, 526 were ruled invalid.
   A signature was ruled invalid if the signer was not listed on the county's property tax rolls or if it was a duplicate signature.
   All the petitions are available for public review, Benjamin said.


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