Community members are some of the greatest assets a city can have. With firsthand knowledge of what it is like to live, work, and play in a city, the community can offer valuable perspective on how to keep a city moving forward. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr., knows this, so he hosts the recurring Mayor’s Night Out series for Hammond citizens to personally connect with him and city department heads. Wednesday evening’s meeting at O’Bannon Elementary School was the meeting for the Fourth District, and the first of 2019. The administration welcomes public attendance and invites citizens to pre-submit questions to be addressed during the evening. McDermott directly answers the questions with the help of the department heads.
“It’s great to be back in the Fourth District,” McDermott said from the lectern to open the meeting.
Tom Novak, an employee of the City of Hammond’s Code Enforcement Division, regularly attends the meetings to stay up-to-date on code enforcement issues and to hear community concerns.
“Mayor McDermott seems to have an unconventional method of running the city,” Novak said. “He’s open to ideas and he wants to hear from the people. He’s not afraid to engage with the public, and I think he can only benefit from engaging with the public.”
One community member asked about the progress of a large basin being constructed in Hammond to contain stormwater drainage. McDermott relied on Marty Wielgos, District Manager of the Hammond Sanitary District, and other department heads to offer reliable updates to the public. The multi-million-dollar project, located between Linden and Columbia avenues, affects nearly everyone in the city.
“It buys us extra time by diverting the water into that pond so the plant does not become overstressed,” Wielgos said. “We all know that the rain patterns have changed here dramatically compared to what they were 20 years ago. When we get these heavy rains, all that water is coming to the plant, so this retention pond will help store stormwater. Most of the year it will be dry and parklike. Our plan is to be able to put a walking trail around it.”
During the open discussion portion on this topic, dozens of residents flooded the floor with questions about specifics on the project.
“I just want to compliment the city on what the plan is for Linden Avenue,” Councilwoman Janet Venecz said. “Although it’s an expensive project, the plans that you have are going to be beautiful. It’s going to change the whole landscape of that neighborhood. I compliment you for looking forward and beautifying our neighborhood.”
Officials also discussed the possibility of improving the city’s focus on revenue made from water management.
“I hope one day that water revenue for Hammond is more than gaming revenue. Maybe that’s our future,” McDermott said. “Creativity. I think we show creativity every day. I think the Council does a great job, I think the Mayor’s Office does a great job, and I think the department heads are great.”
The community raised questions about police matters, public works, parks and recreation, and transportation. Updates also were provided on when a community water tower would be painted, and the salting policy during ice storms.
“I want to thank everybody for coming out to Mayor’s Night Out in the Fourth District,” McDermott said. “I want to remind you that no one gets paid any extra for doing this. I think we’ve done close to 100 of these. We did 11a year for a long time, and now we do one in each district per year. We try our best to be transparent with everything that’s been going on.”
The mayor will host five additional Mayor’s Nights Out events throughout the year. The Fifth District event will be February 27 at Purdue Northwest in Alumni Hall.
For citizens unable to attend, all meetings are filmed for live and post viewing at gohammond.com. For more information on the City of Hammond and details on upcoming Mayor’s Night Out events, please visit http://www.gohammond.com/.