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Tuesday, April 11, 2017 • POSTED BY:  Admin

Hammond grants Park Board authority on alcohol sales


HAMMOND — The City Council on Monday gave the Park Board broader authority when it came to allowing alcohol in city parks despite concerns raised by some alderman.

Although they approved the ordinance Monday, council members also approved a public hearing at 6 p.m. April 24. Several people commented on the oddity of having a public hearing on an ordinance that has already been approved.

"I agree it doesn't make sense, but I think the council can do it even if it doesn't make sense," the council's attorney, Robert Berger, said when asked about the procedure during the meeting.

Councilman Robert Markovich, D-at large, made a motion to amend the proposed ordinance to allow for a public hearing. The amendment was approved 7-2 with only the ordinance's sponsor Dave Woerpel, D-5th, and Scott Rakos, D-6th, voting no.

Markovich then attempted to table the original resolution, but that failed by a vote of 6-3, with only Markovich, Anthony Higgs, D-3, and Mark Kalwinski, D-1st voting to table. The original motion approving the ordinance was later passed, after allowing some people at Monday's meeting speak on it, by the same 6-3 vote.

Woerpel argued the ordinance gives the Park Board authority whether to allow alcohol at the park in the same way the Hammond Port Authority has authority over setting fees at the marina without having to go to the council.

"This is an ordinance that allows the Park Board to do what any other board does and that is make their own decision" when it comes to the parks, Woerpel said at the committee of the whole meeting prior to the regular council meeting. 

Kalwinski, however, noted that the ordinance allows the Park Board to allow alcohol at any of the city parks seven days a week if it desired, with the proper permissions.

He suggested that perhaps such authority could be allowed for some parks, but not for all parks in the city, including neighborhood parks.

"Once, I think, you open this for all city parks in the city and we don't have a say on it, or the control of it, I think you are going to possibly open a door you can't close," Kalwinski said.

The ordinance that had been in place stated that no person shall bring, consume, possess or sell any alcohol in any park or park street "except the city's Park Board may authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages at the Hammond Civic Center and at the Jean Shepherd Community Center, during the 5-day Festival of the Lakes event at Wolf Lake; and except the Common Council may approve 1-day picnics or celebrations by any civic, charitable, not-for-profit or labor organization which has obtained all other proper permits."

The new ordinance allows the "Park Board to authorize the sale at the Hammond Civic Center, Jean Shepherd Community Center, Wolf Lake, and except that the Park Board and Hammond Common Council may approve and issue a permit for an event held by any civic, charitable, not-for-profit or labor organization, at any City Park, provided such organization has obtained any and all other required permits."

While Woerpel talked at the previous council meeting about the Hammond Lakers wanting to be able to sell beer at Riverside Park, attorney Kevin Smith has said the discussion of the proposed ordinance came up prior to the issue with the Lakers.