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Burns Harbor voters have choices for Town Council

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By LILY REX

In the municipal election Tuesday, Nov. 5, voters in Burns Harbor will vote for five people from a field of seven at-large candidates for Town Council.

Incumbent candidates are: Toni Biancardi (R), Eric Hull (D), Nicholas Loving (D), and Raymond Poparad (D). Challengers are Roseann Bozak (R), Walter Macchiarella (R), and James P. McGee (R).

The Chesterton Tribune invited them each to participate in a candidate questionnaire. The Tribune reserved the right to edit responses for length.

Candidates Macchiarella and Poparad did not complete questionnaires.

1) Age, occupation.

Biancardi: 46, Administrative Support Specialist at Duneland Family YMCA.

Bozak: 37, Corporate Trainer at Reliable Transportation Specialist Inc. in Chesterton.

Hull: 49, Regional Manager, along with my wife Rachael, our six kids, Katie, Alex, Meghan, Morgan, Ethan, Gabby, and our Golden Retriever, Mollie.

Loving: 37, Industrial Business Development Manager.

McGee: 69, Steelworker at ArcelorMittal.

2) Incumbents: Why are you seeking reelection to the Town Council? (75 words)

Biancardi: I am running for office because I believe I can make a difference in Burns Harbor. As a native of Burns Harbor, it is important to me to preserve our identity and rich history while planning for the future. I enjoy serving the community as a Town Council person working together with others to provide services and improvements to our residents, building relationships with our businesses, and planning for our future.

Hull: I am seeking reelection to continue working on the projects started by others before me, along with the complete full support and efforts of the other members of the Council. I hope to see the completion of the Burns Harbor section of the Marquette Greenway Trail and development of the Westport area.

Loving: As a lifelong resident of Burns Harbor, I am running to ensure that we continue to have the lowest property taxes in NWI combined with the highest levels of municipal service (police, fire, ambulance, streets and sanitation). I also want to ensure that the Town Council continues to seek community input on issues related to commercial and residential development.

Challengers: Why are you seeking election to the Town Council? (75 words)

Bozak: I have been active in Burns Harbor for several years, and currently sit on the planning commission and the park board. After speaking to some members of our community about the direction our town is taking, I felt like it was my time to step in and serve the community. I love our town, and I want to see it grow and succeed for future generations.

McGee: Iím seeking election for the Burns Harbor Town Council because I enjoy being involved in the dialogues with our rapid growing community. I have the necessary experience and have always had the best interest for our town. More information about Jim MeGee for Burns Harbor can be found online.

3) What specific skill sets would you bring to the Town Council? (100 words)

Biancardi: I am a doer, an analyzer, a planner, and always looking for ways to improve systems and processes. I believe these are the skills that help us to make good decisions while taking care to be fiscally responsible. I value all input and want to make sure each voice is heard. As a native of Burns Harbor, it is important to me to preserve our rich history while planning for the future. Currently, I serve as a Redevelopment Commissioner, a Plan Commission Member, Storm Water and Sanitary Board President, Park Board Liaison, Duneland Economic Development Corporation and Rotary Club Representative.

Bozak: My job as a trainer for our corporation has taught me many great skills such as being organized, being a great listener, and collaborating with many people to make sure a project is complete. It has also taught me how to adapt in difficult situations and how to see them through from start to finish. I am also a mom of four, so multi-tasking is also something that I am very well versed in. I take pride in everything I do and make sure that all tasks are completed on time and to their fullest.

Hull: Iíve spent 16 years managing emergency response teams, and many long hours working alongside first responders, community leaders, and enforcement officials. This has helped me better understand the needs of our civil services and the needs of our dedicated employees who do them. Over the last 10 years, I have served Burns Harbor residents as President of both the Redevelopment Commission and Advisory Plan Commission, and as a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals and Sewer and Sanitation Boards. I was appointed to the Town Council after a member left, then elected at the last term.

Loving: I bring real-world business experience in project management, sound judgment, and financial acumen to the Council. I am focused on keeping us within budget and saving our money where possible. In addition to being the current Town Council President and liaison to the Police Department, I also serve on the Redevelopment Commission and the Stormwater Board. Along with this experience, I also bring my belief that local politics is done best when both parties are working together to achieve the common good for all residents. I will continue to work in a bipartisan way to see that through.

McGee: The specific skill set I bring that is different from everyone else is that I use to be the Burns Harbor Town Council President. I know what exactly the job entails and how to get things accomplished. Iíve worked with the Redevelopment Commission and Planning Commission. Iíve helped ensure that our public services always had the proper resources and always voted against raising taxes.

4) Incumbents: As a current Council member, what do you think the Council can improve upon, and what changes would you like to see going forward if you are reelected? (125 words)

Biancardi: I am very pleased by the collaboration, efficiency, and productivity of the Council, Clerk Treasurer, and town staff over the past four years. Together we have accomplished much to the benefit of our residents, businesses, and visitors. We have worked to balance the budget while making improvements and purchases without taking on debt. We have continued the previous Councilís commitment to the Marquette Greenway Trail to begin connecting our community through a trail system. Iím excited to be a part of the development of the Westport PUD and the economic development opportunities it will bring to town. Iíd like to keep the momentum going in the next four years.

Hull: I think the Council and the various boards can work together to bring many of the projects currently underway to completion. By streamlining some of the processes through the various boards, residents, and future residents alike will benefit with clear, concise, and simple interactions with local government.

Loving: The Burns Harbor Town Council prides itself on being non-partisan, thrifty and forward thinking. The best thing that we can do in the next term would be to continue together on this path. If all five of us continue to work together, we will continue with the progress that we have made. If I am elected, I would like to see us do a better job of fostering community engagement. This is why I have proposed holding summer Town-Council meetings outside of town hall and I am a proponent of having as many citizen appointments on town boards as possible.

Challengers: What do you think the Council can improve upon, and what changes would you like to see If you are elected? (125 words)

Bozak: Iím happy with the direction that I am seeing our town move in. However, I would love to explore new ways to get residents more involved. We have so many great events in Burns Harbor, and I want to make sure that everyone knows about them and are able to attend. There are lots of amazing things happening in the next few years and I want to make sure everyone knows about them. I would like to see a newsletter going out to town residents regularly to keep people informed. I will make sure all questions and concerns are answered quickly and efficiently.

McGee: I would like to see some stability in the Town Council. I believe my past experience with the Town Council makes me the perfect candidate for such stability.

5) What are the key issues in this race? (125 words)

Biancardi: I believe the key issues in this race are how do we plan for the future and grow our economic base in a way that preserves our small-town feel. It will be important to see through the completion of the Marquette Greenway Trail and the Westport PUD in the next term.

Bozak: The new land development at the site of the former Westport Community Center is something that I am very excited about. I would like to help to make sure that this development suits the needs of the residents as well as being aesthetically pleasing. Keeping the public informed on all thatís happening is important. I would like to work with the council to make all the information easily available to the community possibly by live streaming meetings or putting videos online for people who canít make the meetings. While working on this big project, we canít forget to stay on top of the upkeep of current roads, parks, and infrastructures we currently have.

Hull: One current Council member elected to not run again. Regardless of the outcome of the election, ensuring those who are chosen to serve need to complete the projects the Town has been working on and is so close to bringing to a reality. The Town has been awarded over $3.5 million dollars in State and Federal grants to complete the Marquette Greenway and will begin construction next year. This is a key component of the proposed Westport Development Area and will highlight our place in NWI.

Loving: The 2020 census will show that Burns Harbor now has over 2,000 residents and, if our growth trend continues, we will have 3,000 residents by 2030. The key issue in this race is the manner in which we will grow our town over the next decade. Under my continued leadership, we will have steady and sustainable development that will put us in prime position to be the premier community in NWI. We can and must accomplish this without sacrificing our small town atmosphere or the quality of our town services. As we grow in population, I believe that I am the best candidate to lead us.

McGee: I believe the key issues are the same as in the past. We must maintain and do better in government transparency, give residents a great incentive to stay in our community, keep cost of living down, and attract more businesses to our growing community.

6) Attracting and retaining businesses and new development seems to be a struggle across Duneland. In the Redevelopment Commission survey, some respondents said new development would make Burns Harbor lose its ďsmall town feel,Ē while others said the Town needs more business, local or otherwise. Do you think Burns Harbor should have a more even mix of residential and commercial development? What other measures, if any, do you think the Town could take to be more friendly to small businesses and larger commercial development? (150 words)

Biancardi: Our current Comprehensive Plan supports a mix of residential and commercial development throughout town. Our Redevelopment Commission plays a large role in engaging and attracting businesses to town and acts as the main point of contact. As a town we are continually working towards streamlining and simplifying our processes to assist companies interested in doing business in Burns Harbor. Our staff and various boards arenít satisfied with saying, ďthatís the way weíve always done it.Ē We regularly review our code and make updates or modifications when necessary. We welcome the opportunity to share all the great things about Burns Harbor.

Bozak: I would love to see more economic development within Burns Harbor. The leadership in Burns Harbor needs to work responsibly with further growth in Burns Harbor to keep that small town feeling that we love so much. I do not feel that bringing in businesses will change that small town feel that many residents love, having more places that bring revenue and jobs to our town would benefit many residents. Since we are a growing town, I also think that it is important that we hear from all potential businesses owners with an open mind and see what we can make work in Burns Harbor while following town codes and making sure the town remains visually appealing. The planning commission has been working together to simplify and streamline town ordinances to make it easier for potential businesses.

Hull: The fact is that as surrounding communities run out of buildable space, growth will come to Burns Harbor. Planning for that growth, and having residentsí input around it is the best solution to managing it. Right now, if someone wants to build on a property, and it is zoned for it, there is not much anyone can do to influence it. Ensuring the right mix of residential and commercial areas that interact and compliment one another has been a big focus over the last decade here. Many plans have been proposed, and I think we finally have one in the Westport Development that will bring the community together.

Loving: While I do believe that attracting new development is a struggle for other Duneland communities, we are not experiencing this in Burns Harbor. We have multiple residential subdivisions in varying stages of completion and the Redevelopment Commission is currently engaged with Holladay Properties on a development that will include residential and commercial parcels. These are all vibrant neighborhoods, and I would be proud to call any one of them my home. I believe that the town should have an even mix of residential and commercial development, but commercial developers will only come when there is a population large enough for them to service. I support any small business that wants to come to town and there are programs in place to encourage that, but I will oppose any measures that would sacrifice Burns Harborís ďsmall-town feelĒ for a development that is out of character with our current town makeup.

McGee: Burns Harbor has that small town feeling. But, thereís only so much going on. Many residents look to other surrounding communities for their shopping needs, entertainment, and social life. We can make changes to maintain the small town feel while improving in these areas. I believe investing in smaller businesses will be the key for the future success of our community.

7) Incumbent: Burns Harbor ended its ambulance service contract with Superior in July 2018 after Superior proposed a hefty hike in the cost of service. While the Town Council and the Redevelopment Commission formed a solution, Burns Harbor was without dedicated ambulance service for more than two months as officials and residents debated the sustainability of Town ambulance service and the pros and cons of contracting with Porter Regional. Explain the Councilís choice to resurrect Town ambulance service and the current plan to sustain it. (150 words)

Biancardi: Ambulance service is a necessity. The Council considered all the options and concluded that the best course of action was to operate our own service. I believe there is value in operating the service as a town by having an ambulance close by to respond to emergencies as well as providing employment for EMTs and paramedics. Our staff provides outstanding care and has received many commendations for the lives they have aided and saved. Our service is currently collecting payments that cover roughly half of the cost to operate the ambulance. As a Town Council, we are committed to looking for additional ways of maintaining our ambulance service.

Hull: Ambulance service in Burns Harbor is absolutely essential for our residents, businesses, and visitors to our community. I cannot count the number of lives our dedicated professionals have saved during this transition. This service has a cost, just as a police, streets, or parks do. Providing life saving services is not an area where we can afford to make cuts or settle for less than the best. We cannot allow a business to dictate to our residents the value of life or tie that value to a profit margin. This has been echoed almost unanimously by our residents. We have worked hard to maintain a balanced budget over the last few years and are still figuring out the best way to maintain this service financially. As the service becomes somewhat self sustaining, we may have to look for additional ways and creative ideas to fund this essential life saving service.

Loving: Once Superior proposed its outrageous price-hike, the town was left with three options for ambulance service: 1) Continue with Superior 2) Contract with Porter Regional or 3) Reestablish Town Ambulance Service. The option of continuing with Superior was quickly eliminated. The cost difference between contracting with Porter Regional and a town service was negligible, and the council decided that we would have quicker response times and better service if our ambulance was based in town and operated by our trusted Fire Department. This decision has already resulted in multiple lifesaving ambulance calls and those lives may not have been saved if response times were longer. Of all the decisions that I have made on the council, Iím the most proud of this one. There is a cost to operating any municipal service and going forward, any costs not offset by patient transports will be incorporated into the townís budget.

Challenger: Explain what you think is the best way for Burns Harbor to guarantee quality ambulance service to its residents in the long-term. (150 words)

Bozak: I believe that we need to continue to run the ambulance service in Burns Harbor and not outsource. The amount of money that Porter Regional was asking for per year was a very large sum and why pay someone else for a job we could do within the town. Waiting on an ambulance can be life or death in many cases and since we have been using our own ambulance service, lives have been saved by the quick response. I look forward to working with the council to come up with a resolution that will be long term and benefit the residents of Burns Harbor.

McGee: The end of ambulance service in 2018 wasnít a shock given the details that emerged. I helped with the initial contract for the ambulance service and was proud of how we accomplished that contract. Initially the town got a great benefit from the contract with Superior, but the key was to ensure it didnít cost the residents more money out of their pockets. Ultimately, we can find a similar contract with another company, and we can look at the cost benefit of contracting with Porter Regional. But, I would like to try and find the same solution as in the past that doesnít cost the townís residents more in taxes.

8) Though it has remained a small community through the years, Burns Harbor has a history of evolving and planning for growth. What is your specific vision for its future? (125 words)

Biancardi: I want Burns Harbor to be a place where my children will stay to live, work, and raise a family. I see a community connected within in its borders and connected to the greater region through trails and different modes of transportation. One that attracts retail and commercial that offer a mix of products and services as well as businesses and organizations that will create jobs. A town that maintains its small town feel through its residents and their neighborhood connections and the town departments that continue to provide spaces and events for people of all ages to gather and build community.

Bozak: I am super excited about the Marquette Greenway trail! I feel that this is going to bring people to our town and itís going to contribute to our community in so many ways. This along with the new land development at the old Westport Community Center site, are moving this town into a great direction. This is going to build our town up, and done responsibly, itís going to be wonderful for the residents. We have a difficult set up in our town with highways 149 and 20 dividing us, and I hope to see all these new projects give our town a better connection. I canít wait to hear more public opinion on what they would like to see in our town.

Hull: As we saw in 2008, Burns Harbor is very dependent on our largest business, ArcelorMittal. We must be responsible to ensure that while we maintain support for them, we do not rely solely on them to survive as a community. It is very doubtful our borders will grow, so we must plan for the right mix of commercial growth along the U.S. 20 Corridor as well as responsible residential growth in other parts of the Town. Growing our tax base in the right way can help us to become less dependent on one source. Other communities are watching us very closely, and the next few years will be instrumental in how our future will unfold.

Loving: I lived in Burns Harbor when we measured our population in hundreds, not thousands, so my vision for the future of Burns Harbor is a town where we havenít lost sight of our roots and where we still know our neighbors and look out for each other. I believe that with proper planning, in ten years, we will have 3,000 residents and our town will be a place in which we can live and shop that is the envy of surrounding communities. We will be connected to our larger region via roads, trains, and trails. I would like to see commercial development along our Highway 20 and 149 corridors, with residential development separated into quiet neighborhoods. Ultimately, I would like to be a part of building our community into a place my three young children want to move back to after college.

McGee: Burns Harbor remains in a great location. Weíre right off Lake Michigan with access to the nearby dunes. Weíre a quick trip to the highway to nearly anywhere or even a train ride. My focus is on the growth of our newer residents that now call Burns Harbor home. We have many new homes constructed in the past decade. I would like to make sure the residents of those new homes enjoy the community and feel proud, even raise a family, and keep their roots in our community. I want those with established roots to continue to call Burns Harbor home. Our little town is great, we just need to make some minor adjustments to maintain its greatness.

 

Posted 10/21/2019

 
 
 
 

 

 

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