Hammond’s funding for a sewer consultant has been vetoed.
According to a statement, submitted to Hammond City Council on July 9, Mayor Pete Panepinto said he is exercising his line-item veto authority to remove the $100,000 allocation for a sewer consultant in the 2021-2022 fiscal year budget.
“This item was added last minute, and when asked, the councilman could not describe what type of consultant would be hired nor what type of work this consultant would perform,” Panepinto said. “I am not going to waste taxpayer dollars on unnecessary consultants.”
At least four votes are required to override the mayor’s veto.
Council President Kip Andrews said the item would have dealt with the city getting a sewer consultant, but he agreed that the mayor has that right to veto the item, using powers given to him through the governing charter.
He stressed that it was a request that was made and tried to be put into the budget, and now the council will have to do its best and move forward.
“It is something that we can look at later down the road if need be,” Andrews said. “Right now, it is what it is – the item has been vetoed.”
Despite the veto, Andrews still hopes city administration and the council can get along.
“My thing with everything is still trying for us to find ways to communicate to move the city forward,” he said.
He stressed that it will not be every time that the five-person council will agree on the same thing and everyone from the administration and council agree on the same thing.
“I believe everyone is passionate about what they are doing and representing their district and moving the city forward,” he said.
Although he represents District 1, Andrews said he understands matters, like the sewer, affect everyone as a whole. His take is the betterment of the overall city of Hammond.
Councilman Devon Wells said he plans to discuss the veto at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Wells said that while the mayor has the right to veto what he wants, he is confused as to why this specific item was vetoed.
“We are having issues in the community, in Hammond – why would you veto something that important?” he said.
The $100,000 allocation for a sewer consultant was requested by Councilman Devon Wells during the July 17th city council meeting. The item was added to the proposed budget with a 3-2 vote.
Andrews and Wells voted in favor of adding the item, along with Councilman Sam DiVittorio. Council members Carlee Gonzales and Steve Leon voted against the amendment.
All five council members approved the official budget, which had been adjusted to be within balance, with the added sewer consultant item and a plethora of other amendments.
Wells suggests that if something needed to be vetoed, why not veto the increased salaries for the new department heads.
He argues that previous workers left because they wanted more money, and it is not fair to be starting off these new employees off at a higher pay.
A couple vacant department head positions received higher, more competitive salary allotments for city administration to be able to fill the position. There was also some removal of the car allowances that factored into an increase in budgeted salaries.