Tag Archives: Chicago metropolitan area

Illinois Says to Indiana: Keep Your Petcoke and Take Ours Too

22 Dec

by Ken Davidson

Hammond corporation George J. Beemsterboer, Inc. is known to many Indiana residents as the operator of the J-Pit in Gary and a contractor at local steel mills and refineries.   As operator of the J-Pit, Beemsterboer has long been known for bringing  waste into the state of Indiana.  Now Beemsterboer is under fire for allegedly moving Petcoke out of Indiana and into Illinois.

Beemsterboer recently entered into an Agreed Interim Order with the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago.  According to a release issued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Order was designed to thwart a serious public health issue:

“The actions we are taking today mark a critical step forward in putting a stop to the
serious public health threat facing the residents that live near these facilities, but we will
continue to push for the strongest possible protections to ensure these conditions can
never happen again here in Chicago and across the state,”

Earlier in the month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel requested that citizens experiencing any problems with petcoke call the City’s 311 number.  Citizens reportedly complained of dust so thick they could not open their windows last summer.

The petcoke which was stored in Illinois by Beemsterboer came from a local refinery.  There are several refineries in the area which produce petcoke including BP in Whiting.  There are also refineries in Joliet and Lemont IL.  The most likely scenario now will be that petcoke from all of these refineries will be stored and shipped somewhere in Indiana or Wisconsin.

Petcoke is a byproduct of petroleum production.  The material is similar to coal in appearance.  The substance has been a byproduct of refining since the 1930’s.  It has become a national issue lately for several reasons.  The sheer quantity of petcoke has grown as local refineries have expanded.  The market for petcoke now lies outside the US, so it is primarily shipped overseas.  China is the main purchaser of petcoke products as many countries no longer allow the burning of petcoke as fuel.   Because shipping is the primary source of transporting the product, petcoke must be stored near water-in this case Lake Michigan or a local tributary.  Conveniently, Beemsterboer announced the purchase of the vacant State Line Energy plant after the Illinois Attorney General filed suit against them seeking to have the product removed from Illinois.  It has been reported that Beemsterboer will develop the State Line Energy site into condominiums.

One thing is clear, Beemsterboer is not storing petcoke in Chicago anymore.  So far officials have been mum as to future plans for storage of the material.

petcoke loaded onto barge in chicago

Petcoke is loaded onto a barge for shipment overseas

petcoke mountain in chicago

Petcoke Mountain on Chicago’s southeast side.

 

 

 

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City of Gary Says Sheraton Project is Neighborhood Stabilization

19 Dec

by Ken Davidson

At last night’s meeting of the Gary Redevelopment Commission, the Board approved a contract for environmental monitoring of the Sheraton Hotel project. The contract was awarded to Shrewsberry and Associates, LLC of Indianapolis. Shrewsberry and Associates has strong ties to State democrats, including former Chairman of the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee William Crawford. Crawford came under fire for not disclosing his financial interests with the Firm when he was appointed to Ways and Means. Shrewsberry no longer lists its Board of Directors on its website or in public filings that are readily available.

The original Request for Proposals for the demolition called for the contractor to include asbestos remediation and monitoring within the proposal. This additional cost was calculated into the bids submitted by others who were not aware that the Board would later hire another firm and pay that firm separately.

All of this is not unusual for Gary. Although the above is questionable, at best, the Gazette receives reports of such irregularities on a semi-consistent basis. What makes this proposal astounding is how the City apparently plans to pay for the additional cost. The Gazette has learned that the City has included the Sheraton Property in the 2014 Neighborhood Stabilization Plan.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) was established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the purpose of stabilizing communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment. Through the purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed, abandoned and short-sale homes, the program’s goals is being realized.

The grant information provided by the City appears to reference this purpose:

[NSP] appropriates $2,717,859 for the purpose of assisting in the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes.The grant program is commonly referred to as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP).

The Times of Northwest Indiana Legal Notice 12-19-2013

The Notice goes on, however, to list the “neighborhood surrounding the old Sheraton Hotel and its adjoining garage located at 465 Broadway” as an area of additional need. The Sheraton is not only a commercial property, it lies in the major commercial zone of the City. Sitting between City Hall and a Township owned office building, the structure is blocks from any residential structure. The neighborhoods that SHOULD receive relief under the program will not receive the funding intended for them. In fact, it seems likely that Gary will end up repaying another very large grant to the Federal Government.

With 10,000 abandoned homes, one would think that every cent of the NSP funds would go toward rehabilitation of residences.

Violation of Public Trust-Gary Deeds Beach to Redevelopment

18 Dec

by Ken Davidson

The City of Gary has put up to 90 acres of Marquette Park at risk. At a recent meeting of the Baord of Public Works, the City deeded approximately 90 acres of prime beach land to the Department of Redevelopment. The transfer went unnoticed until it was brought to the attention of the press and the Board by activist Jim Nowacki. The Board and the Department assured all involved that the transaction was a mistake and would be remedied. Today corporation counsel Niquelle Allen flatly denied that the transfer was an error. According to Nowacki, he asked Ms. Allen pointedly why the property was not transferred back to the City. “I asked three times” Nowacki said. Her response was clear and to the point, it was not a mistake. The transfer was what the City intended.

    What is at stake:

 
The property in question includes more than 2500 feet of beach frontage. It also includes a large portion of Marquette Park, which the Regional Development Authority just spent millions to renovate. Although the transfer does not include the pavillion, it does include lands adjacent to the pavilion. The property is described in the GIS system as:

5600-6400 Indian Boundary Appr. Gary: ALL N. TEN MILE LINE & w. OF RIV. S. 31 T. 37
R. 7 90.031 ACRES

The land in question begins at the old US Marine Corps reserve center and runs east to the edge of the Marquette Park parking lot. The understanding of most was that the area west of Lake Street, approximately 4 acres, was to be set aside for redevelopment. One activist stated “you don’t violate the public trust for strangers” implying that there was some plan to transfer the property to a political insider. The transfer apparently leaves the entire parcel open for development.

Calls to Mr. Van Dyk, director of the Department of Redevelopment and to Niquelle Allen, Corporation Counsel had not been returned at the time of this writing.

Family Asks for Indiana Residents to Share Flyer

16 Dec Teleka Patrick has been missing since dec. 5

The family of Dr. Teleka Patrick is asking anyone along the 80/94 corridor to share the attached flyer in their neighborhoods. Dr. Patrick went missing on December 5, 2013 and her 1997 Lexus ES300 was found on that date in Portage, IN just east of the Porter/Burns Harbor exit. Anyone who saw the vehicle on that date should contact Indiana State Police immediately.  You can view our coverage of the incident here: Teleka Patrick Still Missing, Vigil Planned for Tonight

If you have a local business, please post this flyer in your window.

Teleka Missing Poster (1) (1)

NIRPC Passes Illiana, Lowell Residents Outraged, Union Members Cheer

12 Dec

by Ken Davidson

In perhaps one of the most contentious public meetings of the year, a room full of people who face losing their farms and family homes squared off with union members looking for temporary jobs.  Union members cheered as NIRPC voted to approve the Illiana Toll Road while farmers cried.  Perhaps the best comment was from a Lowell resident who said “move the road closer to Cedar Lake and Crown Point since they want it so bad.”  That comment clearly points out the irony of communities who have nothing to lose weighing in on the fate of people’s homes in rural south county Indiana.

Christine Cid stood up to the machine once again and voted against the Illiana.  You will recall that Cid was the lone democrat on the County Council standing against the income tax.  This time Cid was joined by County Chair Thomas McDermott.  McDermott, acting as Mayor of Hammond, clearly stated that communities along the 80/94 corridor may be harmed by the southern corridor.  Thus, the question as to why Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson decided to support the controversial plan.  Freeman-Wilson would appear to have the most to lose with the construction of the tollway as she has pinned Gary’s revitalization hopes to the plan to be a transportation hub.  The Illiana Toll Road is expected to be a catalyst for the proposed Peotone Airport as well as a truck route to avoid congestion.  The primary economic growth Gary has seen in recent years has been along the 80/94 corridor.  In the event the Illiana is successful in removing even 20% of the truck traffic from the area, that could be a large loss in jobs and tax revenue for Gary.

The real story here is Governor Mike Pence.  Pence chimed in today praising the Board for passing the plan.  Pence would do well to remember his base if he plans to run for re-election.  It seems that he was outmaneuvered politically during this entire process.  Maybe we will see a Governor McDermott after all.

Miss Print Seeks Help for Haven House

5 Dec Angel Tree Hosted by Miss Print of Munster and Hammond

by Ken Davidson

Angel Tree Hosted by Miss Print of Munster and Hammond

Angel Tree Hosted by Miss Print of Munster and Hammond

Miss Print of Munster and Hammond is once again hosting an Angel Tree to benefit Have House Domestic Violence Shelter.  The friendly staff of Miss Print invites you to stop by and pick a card from the tree.  Each card has an item which the Shelter needs.  Among the items listed are toiletries, toilet paper, office supplies and other staples used by the Shelter to help domestic violence victims.   Donations are accepted during normal business hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9-Noon on Saturday(Munster location only).  Miss Print has two locations, 8244 Calumet Avenue, Munster, Indiana and Miss Print Sign Company at 6931 Calumet Avenue in Hammond. Donations are accepted at either location. Please follow Miss Print on Facebook for more information about them.

The Gazette spoke with Lisa Wein, Executive Director of Haven House, to discuss her holiday wish list.  Lisa told us that the greatest need with winter coming is twin size blankets.  Donations of gently used clothing items for women and children are always welcome also.   Volunteers are always needed at Haven House and you can find more information about volunteering on the Haven House Website. Donations are also accepted at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church located at 7132 Arizona Street in Hammond and the Jean Shepherd Community Center located in Dowling Park.

The purpose of Haven House is to provide safe housing, the essentials for everyday living, and support services to female adults and their children who are victims of domestic/sexual assault and to assist them in breaking the cycle of violence through education, counseling, advocacy, referral and skill building techniques.  Haven House, Inc, founded in 1983 and located in Hammond, IN. is a 24-hour emergency shelter for domestic violence victims and their dependents. Haven House provides services to Hammond, East Chicago, Whiting, Munster, Griffith, and Highland, which comprises a significant geographic area of Northwest Indiana.

Voice Your Opinion on Illiana Toll Road

4 Dec

From Dan Blankenship, Lowell Resident

ATTENTION Lowell Residents
This is your LAST chance to voice your opinion to the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) concerning the “Illiana” TOLL ROAD!

The FINAL vote on accepting the ILLIANA TOLL ROAD into NIRPC’s 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan takes place on December 12, 2013 at the Sycamore Room at Woodland Park, 2100 Willowcreek Road, Portage, Indiana 46368
9:00 AM

This TOLL ROAD is to be built under a Public/Private Partnership, which means that if not even one vehicle uses this toll road the private investors will still get paid with TAXPAYER money (YOUR MONEY)!

Any Questions?: call 219-776-8857