Chesterton Tribune



Burns Harbor to buy unneeded school site from Duneland

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The Duneland School Board on Monday unanimously approved 5-0 a resolution for a purchase agreement to sell a 25.6-acre parcel of land near the Haglund Rd. intersection of Ind. 149 to the Town of Burns Harbor.

The parcel is located in the area where Burns Harbor is planning developments for a new downtown.

The schools had acquired the land in 1967 when it was known as the Westchester Township School Corporation, said Duneland Schools attorney Chuck Parkinson. It was also the same year that the Town of Burns Harbor was incorporated.

Currently, the land is being used for farming, Parkinson said. Duneland Schools has offered a farm lease to the highest bidder, the last time in 2015 on a term of not to exceed a maximum of three years.

Parkinson said negotiations with the Town to purchase the land have occurred and the understanding is that the property will be sold at the average price of two appraisals done on the property, which came to $242,500.

The purchase will be paid for by the Town of Burns Harbor over three years. The transaction is expected to close on Feb. 28, 2019, according to the purchase agreement.

The Burns Harbor Town Council is expected to take a vote on the purchase agreement at its meeting Wednesday.

In school board comments, board member Brandon Kroft, who serves as the non-voting representative on the Burns Harbor Redevelopment Commission, said he appreciates the cooperation between the Town and the School District.

“(Burns Harbor) has some intended uses for this property that is going to be beneficial for us in the long run,” Kroft told his colleagues.

Later Monday, Burns Harbor RDC President and Town Council member Marcus Rogala told the Chesterton Tribune the “main reason for purchasing this land is having an advantage of economic growth” within the town, although there are no definitive plans at this time. The Town owns four acres west of the Duneland School property which has been the site for its Food Truck Square.

The RDC believes the acquisition could initiate conversations with potential developers and show its dedication for growth, Rogala said.

Brown Mansion Lease

Also, the board approved 5-0 to renew the lease of the historic Brown Mansion at 700 W. Porter Ave. behind Chesterton Middle School with the Westchester Public Library system.

The renewal is for just five years instead of ten years, said Parkinson. The Library has used the Brown Mansion for its Westchester Twp. History Museum since 2005.

The basic lease terms are the same, Parkinson said, but the rental has increased and will start at $18,000 and increase by $500 each year thereafter. The WPL Board of Trustees agreed on the lease at its December meeting.

Search firm

Following last month’s announcement by Duneland Schools Superintendent Dave Pruis that he will be retiring on June 30, Board President Kristin Kroeger said that the board will be hiring BWP & Associates LTD. of Libertyville, Ill., to conduct the search process for the next schools superintendent. The firm specializes in assisting school districts find executive leaders.

Kroeger said one of the partners at BWP is Dr. Ron Barnes who has spent many years in education in Indiana and was a part of the leadership search program at Indiana University.

The board voted 5-0 to use BWP’s services. It met with representatives from BWP after the public meeting to go over planning and a timeline. The Duneland Schools will launch its recruitment effort and build a profile for an ideal candidate that will also include a community survey, Kroeger said.

The opening will be posted and all applications will be handled electronically, she said.


In other business, the board by 5-0 vote renewed administrator and director contracts for the central administration which Pruis said now includes the schools’ athletic director and the K-12 music director.

The board at its last meeting had approved contract renewals for building administrators and directors.

Meanwhile, Chief Financial Officer Lynn Kwilaz presented the list of year-end budget transfers for 2016. A total of $12,924 was transferred in the General Fund budget, $195,442 was transferred in the Capital Projects Fund budget and $91,000 was transferred in the Transpiration Budget.

April meeting

Meanwhile, the School Board rescheduled their April 3 meeting because that would be the day of returning from spring break. The board will meet the next Monday, April 10, instead.


Posted 2/7/2017






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