“This is a 4-year-old story. This contract was voted on then, and even (McDermott’s) people voted for it,” Batistatos said. “As a board member, if I have a question, and it’s my job to be fiduciarily responsible, and if this was such a burning issue, at what point did Tom (Dabertin) or Andy say, ‘Speros, can you walk me through this? It begins within the board itself. If they say, ‘Well, I didn’t know,’ I would say, ‘Well, did you ask?'”
Batistatos said McDermott’s release of these figures is a distraction from the larger issue — Hammond’s $224 million debt.
“Hammond has a $224 million ticking time bomb, under the mayor’s watch for the last 16 years. Yet that has yet make a headline. This is political,” Batistatos said.
But McDermott said Wednesday that context is everything — only about $30 million to $40 million of that is civil city debt. About $87 million is from the Hammond Sanitary District, which remains under an EPA mandate for stormwater improvements, and a good percentage is also derived from tax increment financing district debt.
“It’s not really a fair comparison. I get slammed by Speros because I can’t pump raw sewage into Lake Michigan without going through a treatment plant that’s super expensive and regulated by the federal government. So it’s not really a fair comparison, when you’re talking about a guy who puts on ‘The Christmas Story’ festival versus me, who is responsible for 150,000 toilets, and miles of wastewater streams. That doesn’t compare to the guy who gets (a $336,000 compensation package) for putting on festivals,” he said.