Chesterton Tribune

A decade of news: Property taxes, hospital sale, steel, economy are top stories in Duneland

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By KEVIN NEVERS

and VICKI URBANIK

The Top 10 new storys of the decade in Duneland and Porter County, in no particular order.

(1) Property taxes. The decade saw tremendous changes in Indiana’s property-tax system, as the state began to implement the shift in assessment method as ordered by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1998. The change to a market value-in-use system was fraught with hurdles, prompting state lawmakers to enact various reforms throughout the decade. Many counties struggled to get their tax bills issued on time, and Porter County was no exception: the last time the first installment of tax bills was actually issued in the spring was 2002, and the last time the second installment had an on-time fall due date was in 2006. In 2008, state lawmakers enacted a sweeping property tax package by eliminating state credits, hiking the state sales tax, phasing in property-tax caps, and removing school general funds from the local property tax.

(2) Porter hospital. It was a tumultuous decade for the county-owned Porter Memorial Hospital. Early in the decade, the Board of Trustees came under repeated fire at its public meetings by the leader of Porter Watch, a citizen watchdog group formed by an abortion opponent who earlier fought the hospital’s abortion policies. The County Commissioners’ once-routine process for appointing hospital board members became a thing of the past, and board members had to defend the qualifications of its top executives, salaries, and golden parachutes. Then in 2005, a former board member secretly taped a conversation with a top hospital official who divulged plans to sell the hospital. County officials, even those who earlier defended a publicly owned hospital, increasingly began to say that the hospital was becoming too political. Ultimately, in 2007, the Porter County Council, Commissioners, and Board of Trustees agreed to sell the hospital to Community Health Systems of Tennessee after nearly 70 years as a public institution, in exchange for a cash payment of at least $80 million and a commitment to build a new 225-bed facility with all private rooms within four years. In 2009, Porter hospital closed on the purchase of land at U.S. Highway 6 and Ind. 49 in unincorporated Liberty Township, site of the new facility.

(3) Steel. The decade opened in crisis for the domestic and regional steel industry. The problem was not simply depressed market conditions and low selling prices, made all the worse by a flood of dumped and subsidized product produced overseas and imported on the cheap to the U.S. The problem more catastrophically was the enormous and basically unaffordable legacy costs incurred by domestic steelmakers in the form of pension and health-care commitments to their retirees. In the end one steelmaker after another in the U.S. declared bankruptcy, most notably here Bethlehem Steel in 2001 and National Steel. At this point the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation entered the act and began taking over the companies’ pension plans, in the process slashing many retirees’ benefits. The scene was then set for a fire sale. International Steel Group was formed with the express purpose of picking up bankrupt assets cheap: first those of LTV, then those of Bethlehem itself. And the Gordian knot of legacy costs was cut by the simple expedient of reneging on the companies’ health-care commitments, leaving thousands of retirees without their health insurance. Consolidation was nevertheless good for the industry, and as the decade came to a close companies like U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal—the latter of which acquired ISG to become the largest steelmaker in the world—were making record profits. They were, that is, until the third quarter of 2008, when all hell broke loose in the financial markets, and virtually overnight and on a dime the demand for steel screeched to a halt. Steelmakers idled their mills, and laid off thousands and the industry remains in a slump to this day.

(4) (Re-)development. Never mind the surge in both residential and commercial development in Duneland at mid-decade. Never mind the new Jewel/Osco, the new WiseWay Foods, the new CVS Pharmacy, the mushrooming of new subdivisions in Chesterton like Westwood Manor, Abercrombie Woods, and Dogwood Estates. The real story of the decade in Duneland may just be re-development. Hopkins Ace Hardware moved across the street to make use of the long vacant Smedman’s Econo-Mart. The Flower Cart demolished the site of the old Muffler Man and built a gorgeous new building next to the offices of the Chesterton Tribune. Round the Clock built a fine restaurant in the South Calumet Triangle on the site of an old auto dealership. The Duneland Resale Shop moved into its new digs in the former, and long-vacant, WiseWay Foods space on Broadway. The Chesterton Redevelopment Commission has invested millions in tax increment financing funds to give the South Calumet Triangle—now the District—an ambitious facelift. And in the single largest re-development project ever in the Town of Chesterton, the Sisters of Saint Francis, operator of Saint Anthony Memorial Health Center in Michigan City, bought, then razed, the site of the blighted Jewel/Osco space on Indian Boundary Road for a planned $20 million emergency medical facility.

(5) Lake Erie Land Company and Coffee Creek Center. It was going to be one of the most innovative development projects ever built from scratch anywhere: a mixed-use, traditional-neighborhood community where folks would live, work, and recreate. Trouble is, no one wanted to live, work, and recreate there, as LEL cast for ways to get the project off the ground. There was development there, but virtually all of it was commercial: the Steel Family Health Care Center, the Hilton Garden Inn, the Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute, all of them successful and valuable projects but none of them really fitting into the original vision of Coffee Creek Center. Then the carpenters union pension fund got into the act, buying 55 acres in 1999, most of them in Morgan’s Corner. Houses were built there but not many, as the pension fund slowly grew to realize that, while it may know how to build houses, it had no idea how to promote, market, and sell them. Then the kickback scheme emerged, in which a brokerage firm working for LEL paid a $200,000 finders fee to a pension fund lawyer, who in turn split it with a pension fund trustee. Three men ultimately pleaded guilty, a fourth was convicted, in connection with the scheme, and all four served time in federal prison. The pension fund subsequently sued LEL and others, claiming that the $10 million price for the 55 acres was inflated. LEL eventually settled and agreed to buy the acreage back for an undisclosed price. Meanwhile, LEL tried to jump-start development by forming a joint partnership with a Chicago area developer. To date only the Village Green Townhomes has been the result of that move. One bright spot: Coffee Creek Center could be poised to change its focus entirely, to a medical campus, as LBJI and other health care facilities have been built there.

(6) The Mitch Daniels Way. The administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels has introduced a new trend in governance in the state: privatizing and centralizing, with still unclear results. Begin with the lease of the Indiana Toll Road to a Spanish-Australian consortium, with the bulk of the proceeds from that lease not going to the counties through which the Toll Road cuts but to Marion County and I-69. Add Daniels’ request for legislative authority —rejected— to contract with private for-profit companies for the proposed construction and management of an Illiana Toll Road. Add as well the Department of Natural Resources’ proposal—failed—to award a contract to a private for-profit to build a hotel at Indiana Dunes State Park. Now consider Daniels’ handpicked Committee on Local Government Reform, which advocated the forced consolidation of township libraries with larger ones and the centralization of municipal police and fire protection in a single county bureaucracy. To date only one of the committee’s recommendations has been implemented: the transfer of township assessors’ duties to county assessors.

(7) Creeping Fees. According to an analysis conducted by the Chesterton Tribune, the average Chesterton family could be paying in 2010 $60 more per month than it was in 2002 for electricity, water, sanitary sewer, stormwater quality enforcement, and refuse and recycling collection. Indiana-American Water Company is currently seeking what would be its fifth rate hike since 2002, for instance, while the Chesterton Utility has enacted four sanitary sewer rate hikes since 2002. IAWC, NIPSCO, the Chesterton Utility, and Able Disposal have variously attributed the rate increases to the exploding cost of health insurance, purchased power, and fuel, on the one hand, and the need to maintain, repair, and upgrade critical infrastructure, on the other. All of which is undoubtedly true. Even though, sometime next year the aggregate fees paid by the average Chesterton household could be more than double what they would have been under simple aggregate inflationary pressure.

(8) Weather. Dunelanders could be forgiven for thinking that the entirety of the last decade has been one long struggle with the weather. In fact, the weather has had a stranglehold on the community for only the last year and a half or so. In September 2008 fully 12 inches of rain fell in less than 72 hours—commonly forgotten is that fact that something like eight inches of rain had fallen in the few weeks previous—absolutely overwhelming the community, flooding roadways and subdivisions, and forcing millions of gallons of sewage to be bypassed into the Little Calumet River. John and Mark Thanos of Chesterton, father and son, died heroically trying to save the life of a boy who had been swept away in a raging drainage ditch in Westchester South, and Gov. Daniels issued a disaster emergency declaration. The flooding prompted renewed attention to untended drainage ditches in Duneland and things gradually got back to normal. Until an early November blizzard blanketed Duneland. Then a depressing pattern was established: heavy snow, followed by rapid melt and torrential rain and the consequent flooding. The winter of 2009 may have been one of the worst in folks’ memory, including the second coldest day on record and a two-foot snow fall. Yet people may have forgotten just how bad the winter was after an EF2 tornado buzz-sawed through Chesterton on Aug. 19 of this year, creating horrific damage but miraculously seriously injuring no one.

(9) Crime and Drugs. Porter County and Duneland were witness over the past decade to a number of appalling and tragic murders: that of Rick Pinkerton by Christopher Matson in 2000; of David Wahoskey by person or persons unknown, also in 2000; of Kay Peckat and Chandler Simpson by O’Dell Corley in 2002 during a botched robbery of the Pines branch of the First State Bank of Porter; of Barbara Heckman by Bruce Guess and Steve Jorden in 2008 during a robbery of the Luke Oil convenience store at U.S. 6 and Meridian Road. Meanwhile, David Malinski, convicted of Lorraine Kirkley’s 1999 murder, came clean while in prison and revealed the location of her body, and Reggion Deon Slater was sentenced to life in prison for Kate Pokorny’s 1999 murder. At the same time an awareness of the severity of the drug problem in Porter County got traction, as the Community Action Drug Coalition championed the cause. But year after year users, many of them young, continued to die from overdoses, while local police departments dealt with the thefts, burglaries, and robberies committed by addicts looking to score for their next fix.

(10) The Economy. The decade is closing much as it opened: with the steel industry in extremis. Yet this time around the pain is much more general, as the financial global meltdown and credit crisis which hit in the fall of 2008 trickled down—cascaded down—to virtually every industrial and commercial sector. Workforce reductions bloated the unemployment rate at one point this year to over 10 percent in Chesterton, and while municipalities are lining up at the federal trough in the rush for stimulus funding enacted by Congress earlier in the year, there has been precious little indication that the billions supposedly in the pipeline have done much good for the job seekers on the street. Some troubling data from the Porter County Sheriff’s Police Civil Division: in 2008 the PCSP advertised 603 sheriff’s sales, a 22-percent increase over the 493 advertised in 2007 and a 68-percent increase over the 359 advertised in 2006. Also in 2008, the PCSP participated in 1,038 evictions, compared to 841 in 2008, an increase of 23 percent. Executions, meanwhile—court-ordered seizures of property on which there’s been a default—skyrocketed last year; in 2008 the PCSP participated in 33 executions, compared to only one in 2007.

2000

David Malinski of Westchester Township is found guilty of the murder of Lorraine Kirkley and sentenced to 155 years in prison.

Bethlehem Steel, U.S Steel, and National Steel announce plans for the Steel Family Health Care Center, the first commercial development at Coffee Creek Center.

Rumors ripple through Bethlehem Steel’s Burns Harbor Division of imminent Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection or a hostile acquisition, after five consecutive quarters of net losses totally $207 million. The company’s stock has lost 80 percent of its value.

NiSource Inc. announces the acquisition of Columbia Energy Group, a natural gas distribution and pipeline company headquartered in Herndon, Va., in a deal worth $6 billion. NiSource plans to sell $1 billion in non-core businesses to raise cash for the transaction.

The Lake Erie Land Company announces plans for a 125-room Hilton Garden Inn at Coffee Creek Center.

The Chesterton Redevelopment Commission finalizes the boundaries of the town’s new tax increment financing district.

Rick Pinkerton, a resident of Porter and owner and president of P&P Pinkerton, is shot to death in his home.

Students and faculty bid farewell to the old Chesterton High School—the new Chesterton Middle School—and move to the new CHS on 11th Street.

David Wahoskey of Porter is shot to death in the kitchen of his home on Beam Street. No one is ever charged in the murder.

2001

The Chesterton Town Council votes to authorize LEL to transfer 168 acres of the Coffee Creek corridor to the Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy.

Bethlehem Steel completes the last phase of a 15-percent company-wide salaried workforce reduction which eliminated 2,400 positions over 12 months. National Steel Corporation announces a 10-percent company-wide salaried workforce reduction.

A 63-year tradition ends in Downtown Chesterton when Ken and Pat Baur close the Ben Franklin at 219 Broadway and open Framing Concepts Gallery.

Under a new state statute which takes effect to prepare property-owners for the shift to true-tax assessment, assessed value no longer equals true tax value divided arbitrarily by three. AVs accordingly appear to have tripled since 2000.

The Burns Harbor Town Council awards contract to Bowen Engineering of Crown Point to upgrade and expand the wastewater treatment plant, currently in possession of Bethlehem Steel.

Census 2000 figures: Porter County’s population has increased by 13.9 percent since 1990; Chesterton’s, by 14.9 percent to 10,488; and Porter’s, by 59.4 percent to 4,972. Burns Harbor’s has fallen from 788 to 766.

Around 300 people attend a forum on the drug problem at the Porter County Expo Center, sponsored by the Community Action Drug Coalition, as awareness of the issue gains traction.

Ground breaks on Morgan’s Corner at Coffee Creek Center.

Christopher Matson is convicted of the 2000 murder of Rick Pinkerton and sentenced to 95 years in prison.

The Burns Harbor Town Council votes to purchase the wastewater treatment plant from Bethlehem Steel.

Perry Miller, whose conviction in the 1990 murder of Jackson Township resident Christel Helmchen was overturned on appeal, confesses to the murder in exchange for a sentence of 138 years in prison.

The new Jewel/Osco opens on Indian Boundary Road just east of Ind. 49. The old Jewel/Osco remains vacant.

Rail Road, linking 100E to Dickinson Road beneath the Ind. 49 overpass along the abandoned Wabash Railroad right-of-way, opens to traffic.

Suicide hijackers kills thousands at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Reggion Deon Slater confesses to the 1999 murder of Liberty Township resident Kate Pokorny in exchange for a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

Bethlehem Steel, builder of Liberty ships and armorer of the Allies in World War II, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Local taxing units suddenly brace for the possibility of losing the company’s second property-tax installment, estimated at $10 million. The state provides units with a $3 million emergency loan at 3-percent interest as various units implement austerity measures.

2002

The Indiana House calls on the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) to delay the certification of tax rates by one month to buy time for Porter County units reeling from the Bethlehem bankruptcy. DLGF refuses to do so. In the wake of the bankruptcy, Burns Harbor’s tax rate skyrockets by 466 percent; Porter County’s, by 26 percent; the Duneland School Corporation’s, by 21 percent; and the Westchester Public Library’s, by 44 percent.

National Steel Corporation files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The General Assembly approves an emergency loan for Porter Count units hurt by the Bethlehem bankruptcy: $28 million in 10-year loans, to be re-paid without interest if the county enacts an income tax, or with interest pegged to the Consumer Price Index if the county does not. The Porter County Council opts not to enact an income tax.

International Steel Group acquires the assets of the bankrupt LTV Steel.

The Burns Harbor Town Council votes to enact the first ever monthly sanitary sewer rate in that municipality: $40.75.

The Porter Town Council votes 3-2 to build a new town hall.

WiseWay Foods announces plans for a new grocery store at the intersection of 1100N and Pioneer Trail east of Ind. 49.

The Save the Dunes Council celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The new $37 million Porter County Jail is dedicated.

Coffee Creek Center is named one of the 26 most “innovative” communities in the world by the Urban Land Institute, despite the fact that, properly speaking, it is not yet really a community.

Kay Peckat, a teller at the Pines branch of the First State Bank of Porter, is shot to death in a botched robbery. Chandler Simpson is critically injured and later dies of his wounds. Four are quickly arrested and charged including the man authorities say pulled the trigger, O’Dell Corley of Michigan City.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation announces its intention to terminate the bankrupt Bethlehem’s pension plan and assume responsibility for the payment of pension benefits to 95,000 retirees in the largest such takeover ever. The move slashes the pension benefit of many retirees.

Indiana-American Water Company raises its rate by 18.25 percent for customers in Northwest Indiana.

2003

ISG, which bids $1.5 billion in cash and assumed liability for the bankrupt Bethlehem, reaches a deal with Porter County units: it will pay $10.8 million for the $30 million back taxes owed, pay an additional $8.2 million in 2003 and 2004, and will drop all pending tax appeals filed by Bethlehem. ISG reaches a separate deal with the Town of Burns Harbor.

The Burns Harbor Board of Zoning Appeals approves 16 variances for 271 single-family homes on 50 acres being developed by Cliff Fleming. The first ever subdivision in that town, it will come to be known as the Villages of Burns Harbor.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York grants the bankrupt Bethlehem’s petition to terminate retirees’ health care coverage.

By a 2-3 vote a motion before the Chesterton Town Council to endorse a county option income tax (COIT) fails. Later the same evening, the Porter County Council votes 4-2 to enact a county economic development income tax (CEDIT) after deadlocking 3-3 to enact a county adjusted gross income tax.

Porter County Auditor Sandy Vucko identifies a $3 million shortfall in county government.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois approves the sale of the bankrupt National Steel Company’s assets to U.S. Steel.

The Chesterton BZA grants variance for a proposed Round the Clock restaurant at 1607 S. Calumet Road.

The Porter County Council rolls back all county spending to 1999 or pre-1999 levels.

The Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute breaks ground at Coffee Creek Center.

Indiana-American Water Company raises the rate for Northwest Indiana customers by 21.6 percent.

Township assessors blast the working conditions at the County Administration Center as efforts intensify to get property-tax bills out on time.

Peter Manous, former head of the Indiana Democratic Party, Kevin Pastrick, son of East Chicago Mayor Bob Pastrick, and Gerry Nannega, a union official, are indicted in federal court in connection with an alleged kickback scheme to grease the sale of 55 acres at Coffee Creek Center to the carpenters union pension fund. All three subsequently plead guilty and serve time in prison.

Porter County is designated a “Storm Ready County” by the National Weather Service.

Drake Builders announce plans for a commercial development, to be dubbed the Pavilion Center, at Sidewalk Road and Dickinson Road at Coffee Creek Center.

Crowds flood township assessors’ offices with complaints about their reassessment.

The Porter County Council lifts a hiring freeze on vacancies while the Westchester Public Library ends some austerity measures.

2004

Report: the Town of Chesterton issued more single-family building permits in 2003 than it had in any other year in the past decade.

Porter County Auditor Sandy Vucko orders 14 taxing units to return $19.4 million in overpayments, with the Town of Burns Harbor the hardest hit.

The Chesterton Tribune celebrates its 120th anniversary.

The Porter County Park Board rejects the request to move most of the Wizard of Oz Festival to Sunset Hill Farm County Park.

The Community Action Drug Coalition raises more than $20,000 at the first annual Walk Away from Drugs fundraiser at the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve.

The Lakeshore Festival and Events Board of Directors, the not-for-profit operator of the Wizard of Oz Festival, approves a $1 entrance fee for the event. The Chesterton Town Council indignantly rejects any fee.

The Porter County Council once again rejects funding to hire more help for township assessors. It also re-institutes the hiring freeze.

The first installment of the year’s property-tax bill is late.

The Porter County Council lifts a hiring freeze on budgeted but vacant positions.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Chesterton’s population has grown by 6.2 percent since 2000.

Lakeshore Festival and Events disinvites Munchkins Jerry Maren and Karl Slover from the 2004 Wizard of Oz Festival after a contract dispute with their manager. Maren and Slover attend the festival anyway but not as official guests.

O’Dell Corley is convicted in federal court of the murders of Kay Peckat and Chandler Simpson in the botched robbery of the Pines branch of the First State Bank of Porter and is subsequently sentenced to death.

The United Steelworkers of America Local 6787 breaks ground on a 24,500-square foot banquet center on property adjacent to the union hall.

Mittal Steel Company announces the acquisition of ISG for $4.5 billion, to become the world’s largest steelmaker.

The PCCRVC agrees to purchase, for $350,000, 3.4 acres from the LEL in the area of Ind. 49 and U.S. Highway 20 for a new visitor center.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission trims Indiana-American Water Company’s proposed rate hike from 10 percent to 0.4 percent. It’s the third rate hike in three years.

The Chesterton Town Council approves a two-phase sanitary sewer rate hike of 5.8 percent in 2005 and 5.0 percent in 2006. The Chesterton Utility Service Board agrees to purchase the former United Tractor facility at 116 N. 15th Street for $375,000.

2005

The Community Action Drug Coalition reports that Porter County’s opiate mortality rate of 9.83 per 100,000 exceeds Chicago’s rate of 5.88.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, announces the federal approval of the South Shore West Lake Commuter Rail Extension. A permanent non-federal funding source still needs to be identified.

Report: the Town of Chesterton issued 181 single-family building permits in 2004, the best year for new housing starts in 11 years.

Porter County Commissioner Carol Knoblock, D-South, urges the Porter Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees and CEO Ron Winger to resign, citing “incompetence and greed.”

Report: for the third consecutive year the first installment of the year’s property bills will be mailed late.

Northwest Indiana lawmakers ask Porter County to consider buying into a regional development authority to expand the Gary/Chicago International Airport and the South Shore commuter line, with an annual estimated commitment of $3.5 million.

The Duneland School Board approves a 10-year lease of the Brown Mansion to the Westchester Public Library for use as the Westchester Township Historical Museum.

Tom Roberts sells the old Jewel/Osco property, long vacant and virtually blighted, to re-developers Jeff Katz and Jim Lyons.

Gov. Mitch Daniels signs a bill creating a Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. The Porter County Council votes 4-3 to join the RDA by doubling the county’s current CEDIT rate, using the first $3.5 million in revenues for its annual commitment, and dedicating the balance of the revenues to property-tax relief.

NiSource Inc. announces the outsourcing of 1,017 jobs corporate-wide to IBM, with 150 employees affected in Northwest Indiana.

The Chesterton Town Council approves a $2 million bond issue for park improvements.

The PCCRVC approves three contracts with Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for the $2.5 million joint visitor center.

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles announces the closure of the Chesterton license branch.

GK Development of Barrington, Ill., proposes what would be the single largest commercial development ever in Chesterton, on 40 acres of mostly industrial-zoned property at 1100N and Ind. 49.

The Chesterton Town Council imposes the first ever stormwater user fee, to fund the federally mandated MS4 program.

Lakeshore Festival and Events announces that this year’s edition of the Wizard of Oz Festival will be the last in Downtown Chesterton and that next year’s will be at the Porter County Expo Center. Festival goers boo organizers at the wrap party in Thomas Centennial Park.

David Malinski from prison confesses to the murder of Lorraine Kirkley and reveals the location of her body, buried on his father’s property in Jasper County.

A citizens task force issues a critical report on Porter Memorial Hospital, urging it to be sold or merged to sustain it financially. Porter County Commissioners Bob Harper, D-Center, and John Evans, R-North, intimate the need for a new hospital.

2006

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources announces plans to allow a private developer to build a hotel at Indiana Dunes State Park.

A Spanish-Australian consortium bids $3.8 billion to lease the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years. The Chesterton Tribune reports that the largest portion of the revenues from the lease would go to I-69 and Marion County.

The Porter Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees announces that it’s seeking a partner to build a new hospital.

Mittal Steel Company launches a successful unsolicited tender bid to acquire Arcelor SA, the second largest steelmaker in the world.

Porter County Auditor Sandy Vucko orders 18 units to return $3 million in property-tax funds which they mistakenly received due to tax appeals and an erroneous $400 million assessment on a Valparaiso home.

Around 300 people attend a public hearing on the GK Development’s proposed big-box mall.

LEL President Jerry Mobley announces his resignation.

The PCCRVC objects to the proposed location of a hotel at Indiana Dunes State Park.

The Porter County Council deadlocks 2-2 on a resolution expressing confidence in Porter County Auditor Sandy Vucko.

The Chesterton Town Council 3-2 to deny a planned unit development ordinance for GK Development’s proposed big-box mall.

The first installment of this year’s property-tax bills are late again by two months.

No developer submits a bid to build a hotel at Indiana Dunes State Park.

LEL finalizes a joint development partnership with Gierczyk Inc. Midwest. Its only fruit will be the Village Green Townhomes.

Indiana Dunes State Park celebrates its 80th anniversary. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore celebrates its 40th anniversary.

The Chesterton Redevelopment Commission backburners the Dickinson Road extension and focuses on the South Calumet Triangle. It subsequently endorses the permanent closure of the intersection of South Calumet Road and 1100N and the Town Council approves that closure.

The Community Action Drug Coalition commits $100,000 to help Pathway Family Center establish an adolescent drug treatment facility in Porter County.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Dale Engquist his retirement after 24 years in the position.

The Chesterton Town Council enacts a 34-percent sanitary sewer rate hike.

The Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission approves primary and secondary plats for a 32,000-square foot medical arts building at Coffee Creek Center.

More than 70 percent of Chesterton voters rejects city status in a referendum.

Porter County Treasurer Jim Murphy predicts that the first installment of next year’s property-tax bill will not be mailed until August or September, months after the usual May deadline.

Porter Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees announces the planned sale of the hospital to Triad Inc., a for-profit health-care company.

The carpenters union pension fund puts its 55 acres at Coffee Creek Center up for sale, after it fails abysmally to make Morgan’s Corner a going concern.

2007

In a court filing, the carpenters union pension fund alleges that LEL President Jerry Mobley was aware of the $200,000 “finder’s fee” paid to Peter Manous in the course of the $10 million sale.

A public input session is scheduled on the proposed Illiana Toll Road, what would be a privately built and managed toll road through Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties.

Hopkins Ace Hardware announces its re-location to the old Smedman’s Econo-Mart just across the street.

The Chesterton BZA approves variances for a new $2 million CVS Pharmacy on 2.43 acres at Ind. 49 and 1100N.

Report: drug-related deaths doubled in 2006 from nine to 18.

Triad Inc., in the process of acquiring Porter hospital, enters into a merger agreement with two private equity buyers.

The Indiana Senate votes to fast-track the Illiana Toll Road, giving Gov. Daniels exclusive authority to negotiate with private for-profit companies.

TripAdvisor.com ranks Indiana Dunes State Park as sixth in the Top 10 Family-Friendly U.S. beaches.

The National Park Service interprets a Department of Interior Directive to forbid the Friends of the Dunes from soliciting donations in the parking lot during the Duneland Harvest Festival. Budget cuts prompt NPS to furlough the Chellberg farmer for three months during the winter.

Community Health Systems successfully bids $5.1 billion for Triad Inc., sidetracking the sale of Porter hospital.

The Porter County Commissioners commit $200,000 to Pathway Family Center.

The Chesterton Town Council votes to endorse the principle of hiring a town manager.

The Port Drive-In celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Porter hospital officials confirm that a chance may have been lost to clear $65 million more in the sale of the hospital.

Porter hospital is sold to Community Health Systems for $120 million.

The Porter Park Board allows the Duneland Fourth of July Festival to be held at Sunset Hill Farm County Park after construction near Dogwood Park makes it impossible to hold the festival at its traditional venue.

Morgan Park celebrates its 100th anniversary as the first planned subdivision in Chesterton.

A newly configured entrance to Indiana Dunes State Park is dedicated.

U.S. Census Bureau estimates Chesterton’s population in 2006 at 12,456, up 18.76 percent since 2000.

As part of a confidential settlement, LEL agrees to re-purchase at an undisclosed price the 55 acres at Coffee Creek Center which it sold to the carpenters union pension fund in 1999.

The Duneland Unit of the Boys and Girls Club of Porter County celebrates its 500th member at its new home at the Methodist Activity Center.

Porter County Assessor John Scott blames the delay in the issuance of property-tax bills on the Auditor’s Office, which he claims was not prepared for trending.

Westchester Public Library Director Phil Baugher warns of the possible consolidation of the library, as the Commission on Local Government Reform (CLGR) targets small libraries, among other things.

Porter County Auditor Jim Kopp warns that property-tax bills will be late again in 2008.

Constantine Dillon, author of The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, is named superintendent of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

The Town of Burns Harbor celebrates its 40th anniversary.

The Chesterton Town Council votes to enact a recreation impact fee of $1,171, effective in 2008, to be collected from the builders of all new homes.

Survey: 60 percent of businesses, non-profits, and elected officials consider public transportation a major issue in Porter County; only 17 percent of citizens do.

The Chesterton Town Council annexes 75 acres south of the Indiana Toll Road and east of Ind. 49. Liberty Township residents pack a meeting of the Advisory Plan Commission to oppose any plan for a big-box mall on the property.

The CLGR releases a report advocating the consolidation and bureaucratic centralization of libraries, police, fire, and other municipal and township services.

The Northwest Indiana Planning Commission endorses the expansion of the South Shore commuter line to Lowell and Valparaiso.

2008

NiSource Inc. admits the outsourcing of business support functions to IBM in 2005 failed to produce cost savings.

The PCCRVC supports the South Shore extension, so long as it is funded locally by a Porter and Lake county sales tax.

The Porter County Commissioners condemn the use of property-tax dollars by the RDA on a marketing campaign promoting the South Shore extension.

The Chesterton Utility Service Board offers to treat the wastewater of the new Porter hospital at U.S. Highway 6 and Ind. 49.

AP reports: the cascading loan crisis is seen as the economy’s greatest threat, while U.S. home foreclosures hit an all-time high in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The Porter County Council approves the expenditure of $72,000 to hire two additional consultants to assist Porter County Auditor Jim Kopp and tax assessors with this year’s property-tax bills.

The Liberty Landowners Association files suit seeking to overturn the re-zoning of land for the proposed new Porter hospital.

The General Assembly enacts legislation transferring the duties of township assessors to county assessors.

Steve and Raymond Brickner, owners of The Flower Cart, announces plans to raze the site of the old Muffler Man and build a brand-new floral shop there.

Phase I of the South Calumet District project begins.

Indiana Dunes State Park celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Prairie Club.

The Chesterton Town Council enacts an 14-percent sanitary sewer rate hike.

After record profits, spurred by high prices and an insatiable Chinese appetite for steel, the bottle falls out of the steel industry following the global financial meltdown and credit crisis, only weeks after the United Steelworkers negotiate new contracts with U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal.

More than 12 inches of rain fall on Duneland in less than 72 hours, causing massive flooding and sewer bypasses. John and Mark Thanos, father and son, die as heroes after jumping into a raging drainage ditch to save a boy swept away. Gov. Daniels declares a disaster emergency.

The Chesterton Town Council annexes 85 more acres south of the Indiana Toll Road.

The Town of Chesterton posts a want ad for a town manager.

USW Local 6787 President Paul Gipson negotiates a layoff minimization plan with ArcelorMittal.

Lakeshore Festival and Events retires the Wizard of Oz Festival after 27 years, citing the September floods and the advanced age of the Munchkins.

The 2008 property-tax bills are late. How late? They’ll be mailed sometime in 2009.

The Chesterton Town Council enacts a 14-percent sanitary sewer rate hike.

Bruce Guess and Steve Jorden, both of Liberty Township, are charged in the robbery-homicide of Luke Oil clerk Barbara Heckman in December.

NIPSCO announces that it is seeking an electric rate hike of 14 percent.

2009

A draft bill would mandate the creation of county library planning committees, the first step in what some fear would force the consolidation of township libraries with county ones.

At 8 a.m. Jan. 16 the temperature falls to -15 with wind chill of -36, not quite the record of -21 set in 1994. A surprise lake-effect snow adds to the season total of 50 inches, already a foot more than the annual average.

The Chesterton Town Council names Bernie Doyle the new Town Manager.

The Chesterton Town Council authorizes the Duneland Business Initiative Group to resurrect the Wizard of Oz Festival in the Downtown Chesterton.

The Big Snow of ‘09 drops two feet on Duneland. Then it melts, then it rains, then it floods.

ArcelorMittal posts its first ever quarterly loss of $2.632 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The Indiana Delegation voices opposition to pending bills which they say would surrender local control of government with no assurance of tax-money savings.

The Porter County Treasurer’s Office finally mails the 2008 property-tax bills, late in February 2009.

The Westchester Public Library reports a year-over-year circulation increased of 27 percent and attributes the spike to the struggling economy.

Legislation would create a regional transportation district in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, and St. Joseph counties with the power to impose a 0.25 income tax.

The old Jewel/Osco on Indian Boundary Road is razed, to make room for a 24-hour, $20 million emergency medicine department to be operated by the Sisters of St. Francis.

The Liberty Landowners Association’s lawsuit challenging the re-zoning of property for a new hospital is thrown out on the ground it has no legal standing.

The National Park Service sells all remaining animals at Chellberg Farm at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and ceases farming operations there. The friends of the Chellberg Farm rally and protest.

The Porter County Council voted 4-3 to withdraw from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

Indiana-American Water Company seeks a rate increase of 29 percent, what would be its fifth in seven years.

Ball State University approves the environmentally-themed Discovery Charter School in Duneland. Opponents protest the use of public funds for the initiative.

Pathway Family Center closes only months after moving to its new location in Porter. The inability of families to pay for the drug treatment problem is blamed for the closure.

At 7:32 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19, an EF2 tornado blows through Chesterton, creating mass destruction but injuring no one.

The Chesterton Wizard of Oz Festival returns triumphantly to the Downtown.

The Duneland Resale Shop moves to its new digs in the old WiseWay Foods at 801 Broadway.

Bruce Guess is sentenced to 85 years in prison and Steven Jorden to 57 in connection with the robbery-homicide of Luke Oil clerk Barbara Heckman.

Porter hospital closes on the acquisition of land at U.6 6 and Ind. 49 for a new hospital.

The single-installment 2009 property-tax bills are finally mailed. Throughout Porter County local units found themselves having to borrow and pay interest to stay afloat in the absence of property-tax revenues.

Eighty percent of voters in Porter County reject the establishment of a regional transportation district in a referendum.

Gov. Daniels announces that $300 million will be cut from public school funding. The Duneland School Corporation indicates that staffing and program cuts are likely in 2010.

Posted 12/31/2009