The Merrillville Town Council approved resolutions indicating its intent to follow through with two sources for funding the proposed $24 million community center.

The Town Council voted at its July 9 meeting to make a preliminary determination to issue $12 million in general obligation bonds.

Immediately before the council meeting, the council’s Redevelopment Commission approved using $12 million in Merrillville Road tax increment financing funds to pay the other half of the cost of the center, which would be built at the former Y & W Drive-In site at 6600 Broadway.

Before the votes, council members held second public hearings during which they once again said there should be no tax increase for residents as a result of the community center.

"Merrillville is the second lowest community in Lake County for taxes," Councilwoman Chrissy Barron, D-5th, said.

One resident questioned the proposed location and another resident wondered if the town would have the money to pay for the building.

"Why was this site chosen and how will the children in my ward get there when we have no sidewalks," asked resident Rick LeFever.

LeFever asked why the Burlington Coat Factory building, which has long been vacant, wasn't chosen.

Councilman Shawn Pettit, D-6th, said the Burlington Coat Factory building is privately owned and the owner has other plans for it. Tri-Land Development, which owns the Century Mall Plaza and the store building, has said it's interested in turning the vacant building into a convention center.

LaMarca said a feasibility study was done and found the Y & W property to be the best site. Town Manager Bruce Spires said children would be dropped off at the Merrillville School bus transportation center across Broadway from the proposed community center.

Resident Leonard White, who won the Democratic primary for the 5th Ward council seat in May, said he had two monetary concerns: the fact that the council has committed to paying 22% of its County Economic Development Income Tax money to fund South Shore Railroad improvements and that bonds that are now exempt will not be in the future, resulting in less property tax dollars.

"I hope you have the money to pay for the community center next year," White said.
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