Chesterton Tribune

The Chamber on the issues

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Reasonable people can disagree on the issues.

We can only marvel now, though, at the frequency with which the Chamber Board of Directors found itself—its good intentions notwithstanding—on the wrong side of history.

Some memorable votes:

•February 1962: The Board resolves unanimously at a special meeting to oppose a bill authored by Sen. Paul Douglas, D-Ill., which would create Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Westchester Township. “The taking of now taxable property off the tax rolls is among the reasons the chamber opposes the bill,” Chamber Executive Vice-president Fred Hyde says. “Directors also felt . . . that the bill is a political move on the part of Sen. Douglas to win votes in Illinois by getting Chicago another beach and aid South Chicago industries.” In January 1964, the Board resolves again to oppose Douglas’ bill and its counterpart in the House, authored by U.S. Rep. J. Edward Roush, D-Ind. The “bills are vague and confusing,” the resolution reads in part. At a luncheon in July 1965, the Chesterton Tribune reports, “Members were much pleased to hear Mr. (Walter) Pickart”—a guest speaker whose topic is “the last wills and testaments of famous and non-famous people”—“preface his talk with a remark that he, too, as presently a resident of Beverly Shores, regretted having Sen. Douglas poke his long nose into our affairs.”

•October 1968: The Board resolves to take no position at all on the proposed creation of a Duneland School Corporation (DSC) which would combine into a single system the schools in Westchester Township, Liberty, Jackson, and part of Pine. Instead, the Tribune reports, the Board urges “voters to make up their own mind on the question.” Voters do. On Nov. 5, 1968, they cast 2,827 ballots for a DSC versus 2,441 against one. The DSC opens for business on Jan. 1, 1969.

•May 1972: The Board resolves to endorse the Northern Indiana Public Service Company’s proposed construction of a nuclear power plant at the Bailly Generating Station. “The resolution asks NIPSCO to work with the Atomic Energy Commission to insure the safest possible design,” the Tribune reports. “The Board of Directors votes to support the proposal after the Chamber of Commerce heard both a spokesman from NIPSCO and from the concerned citizens fighting the location of the nuclear plant here.”

•September 1972: The Board has the honor of filing the first remonstrance ever against a proposed budget of the DSC. Among other things, the Tribune reports, the remonstrance seeks to make “the lunch program self-supporting” and to establish “secretarial pools to save on the number of secretaries needed.” Mysteriously, the Board withdraws its remonstrance two weeks later “after further study by the tax committee.”

•January 1974: The Board—joined by Bethlehem Steel Corporation—files a remonstrance against a $1.5 million bond issue proposed by the Westchester Public Library Board of Directors for the construction and equipping of two new buildings: a main library at the site of the old Thomas School in Chesterton and a branch library on the site of the old Hageman School in Porter.

“The remonstrators advocate a new comprehensive study of library needs be made before formulating a building program,” the Tribune reports. Seven months later, in August, the Board proves that some bond issues it can stomach by resolving to endorse two separate ones proposed by the Chesterton Town Board. On the same day the Town Board approves both: a $1,760,000 issue for water system improvements—with a corresponding water rate hike—and a $180,000 issue for sanitary sewer improvements without a corresponding sewer rate hike.

Getting It Right,

Dogging INDOT

On one issue, however, the Chamber was absolutely prescient: traffic safety.

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), not so much:

•September 1969: A Chamber delegation travels to Indianapolis in an effort to persuade INDOT to be mindful of safety as it engineers the Ind. 49 Bypass. The delegation is looking for something in the way of signalization at the intersections of Indian Boundary Road and Porter Ave. and—in the best-case scenario—a cloverleaf interchange at both or either. The latter, at least: no go, too costly, an INDOT functionary tells the delegation. “(O)ut of the question, he said. He said such a cloverleaf intersection would cost about $1 million,” the Tribune reports.

•April 1970: Another Chamber delegation troops to Indy. The news again is bad. INDOT, the Tribune reports, has no intention of building an interchange when, by its estimate, “the bulk of the traffic predicted for the by-pass was for people in Chesterton to go to work in the mills or harbor area, and . . . local traffic is the responsibility of local governments.” The Chamber responds by sikking Chesterton Plan Commission member Bill Carmichael on INDOT. “The by-pass could well be obsolete before it’s opened,” Carmichael says, citing a study conducted by Barton-Ashman Associates, consultants retained by Bethlehem Steel Corporation. That study projects at least twice as much local traffic on the Bypass as predicted by INDOT, and while it does not project through traffic, for Carmichael the implication is clear: INDOT under-predicted that as well.

•July 1975: The Chamber re-activates a dormant safety committee to pursue the signalization of the intersection of the Bypass and Porter Ave. following deaths at the intersection. Two weeks later, INDOT announces that signals will be installed.

 

Posted 8/26/2005