Chesterton Tribune



WPL board deadlocks on US 20 land donation

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It’s not often a 3-3 vote happens for the Westchester Public Library Board of Trustees, but it did happen Thursday.

Members found themselves in a stalemate over whether to accept an anonymous donor’s gift of a vacant 1.4-acre parcel at the southwest corner of the Ind. 49 and U.S. 20 intersection.

“I think this is a first time we had a split vote,” board member Michael Livovich said.

The property owner approached WPL board member Drew Rhed towards the end of last year about the possibility of letting the Library have the land after trying to sell it unsuccessfully. Board attorney Terry Hiestand pointed out in December that there was no roadway to access the property and it would likely need permission from INDOT and the neighbors to have an access point.

Even after several meetings in closed executive session since then to discuss the possible acquisition of property, there was no clear concept of what WPL would be able to use the land for.

Board member Nick Tilden said WPL could accept the donation with the intention of selling it in the future to someone else. There would only be a very minimum cost on insurance for the library to hold on to it, he said.

He acknowledged that some board members felt putting money or investments into the land may not be “the right idea yet.”

Livovich made the motion to decline the donation and thank the donor for their offer. Voting with Livovich in support of the motion were members Abbe Trent and Board President Kathryn Cochran. Against the declination were Tilden, Michelle Corrazzo and Rondi Wightman. Rhed abstained from voting as the donor came to him originally.

No motion was made to accept the donation. Since no motion passed, Hiestand said he would inform the donor by letter that the board was undecided.

Rhed after meeting said he believes the board failed to have a consensus since there was no foreseeable purpose for the parcel at this time.

Cochran said the board did discuss at length all the options. “(The board’s decision) was based on a very strong evaluation of the conditions,” she said.

2017 budget

In other business, WPL Director Leea Yelich presented a proposed draft of the Library’s 2017 budget with more funding being given to salaries.

Yelich however kept the overall budget amount at the same level as this year’s, at $3.1 million. She said she has not heard what the state’s assessed value growth quotient will be for 2017 so it is likely the budget draft will go through changes.

Yelich increased the salaries line item by about $100,000 with salary increases for full time staff ranging from about $5,000 to $12,800.

The board earlier this year looked at a salary study with the consideration of adjusting salaries to retain qualified employees.

Yelich said insurance costs were significantly lower this year than in 2015 and decided to budget $250,000 for 2017 instead of 2016’s $370,000.

Other decreases within the overall budget included a $25,000 reduction for equipment and a $75,000 lesser figure for funds to transfer into the Library Improvement Reserve Fund.

Capital outlays and library materials remain the same in Yelich’s draft.

Yelich said she calculated the increased salaries using the Library Book and Trade Almanac and also considered the amount of time employees have worked. Those who worked the longest are proposed to receive the largest raises.

The board will vote at its August meeting on the Library’s 2017 advertised budget for a public hearing. Adoption is scheduled to follow on October 27.

Also, the board will consider a resolution in the near future about offering employees new retirement plan options through the Indiana Public Retirement System.

Currently employees are offered a Public Employees Retirement Fund (PERF) hybrid plan which pays 3 percent into an annuity savings account. The state has rolled out a new ASA-only plan that employees can pay into.

John Vetroczky from the IPRS office provided the board with information regarding how each plan would work.

No help from TIF

Also on Thursday, Hiestand said the Town of Chesterton sent a certified letter to the Library informing that it would not be receiving any additional funding from the Town’s tax increment finance district this year, nor any other government taxing unit within the TIF area, since the Town will be using the entirety of the revenues.

Hiestand, who before has been critical of the establishment of TIFs, said that the TIF districts seem to benefit only the entity that establishes it and is detrimental to other taxing units such as the County and the school district.

Other matters Thursday:

-- Non-profits and volunteers are invited to June 16’s Nonprofit Network Night Volunteer Fair at The Spa in Porter from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. designed to connect community members with local nonprofit groups. The event is hosted by WPL Yelich said 15 nonprofits have signed up so far.

-- Starting today, Hageman Library in Porter will have extended hours, open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. instead of 5 p.m.

-- Library patrons are no longer allowed to bring their own paper for printing in the serials department.

-- Ellis Electric is helping the Library set up security cameras in the Westchester Twp. History Museum’s exhibit area and a router for WiFi. They will also be installing new lights on Thomas Library’s stairwell.


Posted 6/10/2016





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