During the coronavirus pandemic crisis, The News-Dispatch has dropped the paywall for virus-related stories. If you appreciate local journalism, please help us continue to keep La Porte County informed by considering a subscription. Learn more here.MICHIGAN CITY — Mayor Duane Parry issued an executive order Friday mandating a hiring freeze and other cost-saving measures to combat the financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Unfortunately, these are historic times, and our city is facing a challenge unlike none we have experienced in this modern era due to the coronavirus pandemic,” the executive order states.

It goes on to mention that the Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa closed to the public on March 16, and has yet to set a date when it will reopen.

This has caused some uncertainty for the city, which relies on funding from the riverboat for a significant percentage of its operating budget.

Furthermore, Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered that while property taxes remain due on May 11, penalties on late payments must be waived for the following 60 days, which could cause a shortage of cash flow for the city.

“Because of the unknown foregoing circumstances, I find that an immediate need exists for the various City Departments to take the necessary steps to reduce, at least temporarily, the city’s operating costs,” Parry writes.

The temporary hiring freeze applies to all permanent and seasonal, full-time and part-time municipal jobs.

It mandates that no vacancy be filled without authorization from the mayor, with the exception of positions within the Michigan City Port Authority, Department of Water Works and Sanitary District, other than those paid for by the city’s Refuse Fund.

Additionally, all capital projects and expenditures – whether already in the budget or not – may not proceed without Parry’s authorization.

Exceptions include projects under the control of the Port Authority, Water Department, Sanitary District and Redevelopment Commission, except for those paid for by the city’s Refuse or Storm Water funds.

City department heads are also ordered to cut all unnecessary overtime expenditures, and to implement other cost-saving measures as they are able.

The executive order is effective through Dec. 31, unless the mayor determines it should be lifted before then.

Parry did not respond to requests for comment before press time Friday.

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