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Greater Lafayette's growing pains

Greater Lafayette is the fastest growing metropolitan area in the state of Indiana. In a special report, we told you about the positives of an expanding community. Now, we explore the negatives.

Posted: May 10, 2018 4:33 PM
Updated: May 12, 2018 3:29 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – What's the number one complaint of a growing community? Many would agree, it's traffic. 

"Sometimes it seems like several streets in a pretty traveled pathway are closed at the same time," said Tippecanoe County resident Shannon Smeltz. "So, that's kind of frustrating."

In a rapidly growing community, traffic is unavoidable.

"You have to continue to build roads, add capacity to water, sewer, storm water," explained Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski. 

It's not always glamorous, but it's necessary.

"This is something that's really going to put us in a place to be competitive," said West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis. 

But you can't compete without good schools. That's why school corporations are part of the conversation.

"We want to be able to offer the very best of education to our schools so, that means adding space for the students and adding teachers and support staff," said Tippecanoe Schoop Corporation Superintendent Scott Hanback. 

TSC is arguably the most widespread in the county so, transportation is a challenge.

"As we grow, we need school buses to bring the kids to school and covering over 437 square miles like we do, we have to send our buses to all four corners of our county to pick up kids," said Hanback. 

Law enforcement is working to keep up with the growth too.

"The hiring process doesn't ever stop," said Lafayette Police Lt. Scott Galloway. "Hiring is a long process, so if we have an increase in population, it takes a while to get officers trained to be able to serve."

More and more officers are being trained to work with the area's drug task force.

"You hear a lot about issues with drug overdoses and the heroin epidemic that's starting to touch our community," said Smeltz. "So, those things are negatives."

"When you have more people, you are going to have more incidents of potential crime," explained Lt. Galloway. "So, that's why we do try to communicate with the public to try to make sure they know their resources."

The Lafayette Transitional Housing Center wants those moving into the community to know about its resources too. In the last five years, the number of people experiencing homelessness at LTHC has grown more than 250 percent.

"I do wish with that came a large increase in our contributions from the general public," said Lafayette Transitional Housing Executive Director Jennider Layton. "We have not seen much of that."

But she has seen an increase in the cost of living.

"People just can't afford housing here anymore," said Layton. 

Ask Russell Company Real Estate owner Kathy Russell what it's like to buy a home in Greater Lafayette right now.

"It's a nerve wracking problem for buyers, very nerve wracking and very defeating," said Russell. "Because they fall in love with these houses and then they can't get them."

The competitive housing market is making it tough for people even if their making decent money.

"But for people that are barely surviving and that are not making a living wage to sustain their housing resource, it's really detrimental to them," said Layton. "So, the need for low income housing, I just can't explain enough how much we need that."

Layton hopes those lucky enough to afford housing here, will help.

"I think if they knew who we were and they knew the amount of people and the amount of children that we're serving, people would be more involved."

Layton said in the last year, they've helped almost 1,500 people and 400 of those were children in our community.

If you're interested in helping the cause, click here. 

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