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Lawmakers consider funding for lead crisis in East Chicago

January 26, 2017

State lawmakers are considering two plans allocating a total of $15 million in state funds for the lead crisis in East Chicago.

A panel of Indiana senators are meeting today to begin discussing whether to provide more assistance to East Chicago residents and institutions affected by the crisis, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

The first plan, Senate Bill 148 sponsored by Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, would demand the state pay a debt related to the closing of Carrie Gosch Elementary School. The measure also calls for maintaining per student funding for the school district.

Officials closed the building in August after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed severe lead and arsenic contamination of the school's property, as well as land in the nearby West Calumet housing complex, from past manufacturing operations at that site.

“The East Chicago School Corp. is going to be in dire need of having the necessary funds to sustain itself because it lost the kids by closing the school,” Randolph said.

The other proposal, Senate Bill 317 sponsored by Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, would appropriate $5 million to the state's disaster relief, which would be used if federal and local relief efforts fail to fix the neighborhood.

“I felt there wasn’t anything being done to guarantee any money if there’s any setbacks for the people that have to move or if there’s more money needed,” said Mrvan, who previously had family living near West Calumet and whose district used to include the area. “If the Superfund money runs out, or if they need money for anything else, they could count on this money.”

State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that if any extra East Chicago spending is approved by lawmakers, he expects it to be merged into the biennial state budget.

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