candidate running for Porter Town Council’s 4th Ward seat believes the town
has lost some of its momentum for major development opportunities.
42, said she felt “the timing was right” to step up and run for Council in
her ward. She faces Democratic Ross LeBleu on Election Day, Nov. 3.
If elected, Fowler
wants to shake off the dust of the Gateway to the Dunes plan which started
as an agreement between the Town of Porter and the Northwest Indiana
Regional Development Authority in 2009. The intention was to develop 128
acres as way to connect the Dunes with other communities, starting with
The RDA secured
millions in grant funds for rebuilding bridges over U.S. 12 and U.S. 20 in
the first stage of the Dunes-Kankakee Trail between Dunes State Park and the
Dunes Visitor Center.
In addition, the
Gateway plan looked to promote new business growth in Porter around the
highways, with the goal of bringing new jobs to the area and increase the
tax base. Plan developers also talked of building hotels, a conference
center, and an indoor/outdoor waterpark.
After receiving a
mixed reception from residents and town officials, the Gateway plan has
languished during the current Council’s tenure.
“I want there to be
change. I want to see us move forward with the Gateway Project,” Fowler said
in an interview with the Chesterton Tribune.
The Council members
who championed the Gateway plan were not reelected in 2011, Fowler said,
including her husband. Trevin Fowler, who served on the Council for about a
year and a half after being installed by a Republican caucus in 2010, was
the Council’s president in 2011 and actively supported the Gateway plan and
Brickyard redevelopment project.
Fowler said with
the millions of dollars that have been leveraged for the Gateway to the
Dunes, she hopes the project won’t continue to be shelved. The economic
impact from the plan would fuel other projects that the Town wishes to
accomplish such as paying, or possibly bonding, for new infrastructure and
refurbishments to the park system to make it rival those in Valparaiso and
Portage. She feels the public works department will benefit by being able to
have new trucks.
businesses is worthwhile because they pay more in property tax, with a 3
percent circuit breaker cap compared to residential which is capped at 1
percent, she said.
the vision of the Gateway project, Fowler is in favor of having “a good mix
of commercial, retail and recreational businesses.” She also would like for
there to be a children’s museum in town, having seen a strong demand for
children’s programming at Hageman Library.
Another wish of
hers is to have an ice skating rink here as a winter activity and in the
spring and summer months have kayak launch and rentals on the Little Calumet
River, like what was proposed in 2010 for Hawthorne Park. The playgrounds at
both Hawthorne and Porter Cove also need new equipment, Fowler said, which
she said could be done if the town can pull in more revenue with new
Fowler and her
family have lived in Wagner Hills subdivision for the past 10 years, moving
from Utah. Her children attend Discovery Charter School, Chesterton Middle
School and Chesterton High School.
While she holds no
current position on any town boards in Porter, Fowler believes her
occupation as a bus driver for the Duneland Schools demonstrates an
important attribute for a Council member, a commitment to public service and
safety. The Town’s Clerk-Treasurer Carol Pomeroy drove school buses for many
years before she took office, she points out.
Fowler said she’s
held leadership positions in the past and currently chairs the women’s group
at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
decision recently made by the Council was to appropriate salary increases of
roughly 3 percent for each town employee. Fowler said instead of giving
raises across-the-board, she would suggest that they be given based on
merit, evaluating each employee individually.
promoting safety should be the top priority of the Council. She said to
improve traffic safety on U.S. 20, lower speed limits could be implemented
for cars approaching major intersections like Waverly Rd., and crosswalks
added to assist those who want to cross over to Seven Peaks waterpark.
“If we can have
more pedestrian bridges like with the Brickyard Trail, I think we provide
people’s safety and I think that increases our quality of life,” she said.
Safety also plays
into how Fowler feels about the dog rule at Porter Beach since there is no
longer a police officer to regularly patrol the beach. She is glad the
Council has allowed dogs on part of the beach so owners can bring their dogs
and not be in violation.
Fowler’s said she
would like to expand the scope of projects in town so more people can get
involved and think bigger about what the Gateway project can mean for
“Let’s reach our
potential. Let’s have the big vision of what the town can be,” she said.
By JEFF SCHULTZ
Go to any town
sponsored event in Porter and chances are you will cross paths with Ross
“very active volunteer” has helped out with Duneland Business Initiative
Group, Rebuilding Duneland, the Taste of Duneland and been on hand at events
with the Porter Parks Department including Porter’s Perfect Pint, Easter Egg
hunt, Family 4th Fest and parade, the Boo Bash and the DBIG Bark in the
LeBleu, 49, was one
of the final members on the Town Park Board in 2013 when the Council decided
to disband it and was its vice-president at the time. He had openly
supported the Council’s reorganization of the parks department to
Now LeBleu, a
Democrat, hopes to win his first term on the Council as the 3rd Ward
“I really want to
be a breath of fresh air and come in and be able to work with the Council in
coming up with ideas to strengthen the town and economic growth,” he said as
his reasons for running.
Keep things flowing
In an interview
with the Chesterton Tribune, LeBleu talked of how he favors the
Council’s leadership and would like to help it transition to whatever order
the Council finds itself in 2016.
“I think the
Council is working well. I would like to keep things flowing the way they
are right now in the new alignment,” said LeBleu.
He said he doesn’t
plan on calling for any policy changes since residents seem to approve of
how the Council operates. “The people in town I’ve talked to seem to be
happy with the way things are going.”
Managing the town
Originally from a
small community in Louisiana, LeBleu moved to Porter in 2010, residing near
Porter Beach. He has worked 25 years as a real estate property manager for a
number of condominium associations. He said he has planned large budgets up
to the six to seven figure range and is responsible for keeping them
balanced, a skill he feels will be valuable in managing the Town of Porter.
As a property
manager, LeBleu said he’s knowledgeable about working with state and federal
codes and managing people.
“I enjoy taking
care of people. I like the fact I can make a difference in someone’s day and
to satisfy a need they may have,” said LeBleu. “I hear complaints as a
property manager and I work to fix them.”
LeBleu said he
wants the Town to live within its budgetary means because with the economy
still recovering from a recession, an increase in taxes or fees is not best
for the residents. The Council however needs to strategize the best ways to
fund services such as sanitation, streets, police and fire.
But he “absolutely”
agrees with the Council’s proposal to give Town employees a 3 percent
increase in salaries next year, feeling they deserve it for the years
they’ve managed to tighten their spending and the successes of working
Fixing drainage has
been a common concern residents have raised but LeBleu said residents should
realize the Town is not responsible for the problems on private properties
caused by poor implementation at the fault of the developers.
When asked what he
sees as priorities for the Council, LeBleu said transparency is important
and being able to move in the right direction. He hopes to build the
relationship between the Town and its residents, finding more ways they can
work together when needed and make them feel a part of their community.
The Council, he
adds, can boost the relationship further by listening to how the residents
would like to see their town grow and implementing their ideas.
Master plan for
Speaking on ways to
expand the local economy, LeBleu said he wants the Council to continue
developing a master plan for the downtown area, promote local growth with
local businesses and help existing businesses attain their vision.
Maintaining the characteristics of a small town is an important asset for
Porter, he said.
LeBleu said tax
increment finance (TIF) funds collected by the Redevelopment Commission
could be used to improve development on U.S. 20. He would also like to see a
better configuration of traffic lanes and lights at the intersection of U.S.
20 and Waverly Rd. to improve traffic flow at that intersection.
opponent in the Nov. 3 election, Republican Kimberly Fowler, is calling for
the Town to rekindle the Gateway to the Dunes Project, LeBleu said it is not
a path he would suggest.
The Gateway plan
included a mix of commercial and retail development, along with the
possibility of hotels, vacation villas and an indoor/outdoor waterpark,
along the Ind. 49/U.S. 20 corridor which LeBleu said are “risky ventures.”
In four years or
so, things have changed as the bike trails are almost complete and the land
previously eyed for the Gateway project has now been donated by Lake Erie
Land Company to the National Park Service and is unavailable for
development, LeBleu said.
LeBleu said he
would like to see the funds and grants garnered by the Northwest Indiana
Regional Development Authority for the Gateway project remain in town for
improvements and be spent in a sensible way.