By VICKI URBANIK and KEVIN NEVERS
The year 2003 was a year about taxes, with no other topic dominating the
debates, the headlines, and the public policy that resulted.
The year began much the same way as 2002 ended, with local units of
government still struggling with a fiscal crisis prompted by the Bethlehem
Steel bankruptcy in late 2001.
The year ended with numerous property owners getting socked with huge tax
bills due to reassessment, with owners of older homes and vacant land
appearing to fare the worst.
In between was a contentious debate over whether Porter County should pass a
new income tax. With no other city or town except for Kouts taking a stand,
Chesterton decided the matter, killing the County Option Income Tax by 3-2
vote just hours before the deadline. The Porter County Council then enacted
at the 11th hour a less favored income tax that can be mainly be spent only
on capital projects.
The biggest story of 2003 was reassessment, with the ramifications of
Indiana’s new tax system still unfolding.
Per court order, Indiana’s move to a fair market system was intended to
shift more of the tax burden from businesses to other property owners. Like
nearly every other county in the state, Porter County didn’t get its
reassessment done on time, resulting in “provisional” tax bills one month
later than usual in June. A rush was then on in the summer to get the tax
work done in time for the November billing. The tax bills did go out, but
numerous errors were discovered, as property owners flooded assessors’
offices and phone lines with questions, complaints, and appeals.
In the meantime, Indiana lawmakers convened a mini session to ponder tax
reform, but failed to come up with any meaningful relief.
At the same time that Porter County dealt with reassessment during 2003, it
also faced unique tax impacts due to Bethlehem Steel. Early in the year, an
agreement was hashed out with Bethlehem’s new owners, International Steel
Group, guaranteeing local units of government payments in lieu of taxes this
year and next. The Bethlehem plant was removed from the local assessed
valuation. Both actions helped ensure that local units of government
wouldn’t face the same budget shortfalls this year as they encountered in
By years’ end, the local government units hit hardest by Bethlehem’s demise
-- the Duneland Schools, Burns Harbor and Westchester Public Library – saw
light at the end of the tunnel. The county council, for one, after slashing
most budgets to 1999 levels earlier in the year, lifted its two-year-old
hiring freeze and approved employee raises for the first time in three
years. Burns Harbor granted holiday pay, and WPL welcomed back non-residents
Bloated property-tax bills are one thing. But for the retirees of Bethlehem
Steel and National Steel—or for the employees, hourly and salaried alike,
whose services were no longer required when those companies were
acquired—reassessment has added insult and more injury to injury.
On Jan. 1 five steelmakers had operations on the shores of Lake Michigan:
Bethlehem, National, US. Steel, Inland Ispat, and International Steel Group.
At year’s end Bethlehem and National had ceased to exist, their assets in
the hands of ISG and USS respectively, and long overdue consolidation had
begun to restore something like viability, if not outright health, to
Northwest Indiana steel.
But consolidation has come at a cost. And in the months which followed
Bethlehem’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 2001, it
seemed highly unlikely that consolidation would ever come at all. The
problem: Bethlehem’s staggering legacy costs, the liabilities associated
with a retired workforce which outnumbered the active workforce by roughly
seven to one. The company’s obligation to its 95,000 retirees and their
survivors totaled around $5 billion in pension, health-care, and
life-insurance pledges, and not surprisingly one steelmaker after another
came to sniff at the moribund Bethlehem in 2002 only to find the legacy odor
Then ISG cut the Gordian knot by cutting loose the retirees. In a deal
valued at $1.5 billion in cash and assumed liabilities, ISG acquired
substantially all of Bethlehem’s assets on April 30. Off the table, however:
the legacy costs. In hindsight the solution was both simple and inevitable,
it saved the jobs of thousands of workers, but it left retirees—those under
65 and not eligible for Medicare—in a pickle. For them the other shoe
dropped on April 1, when Bethlehem terminated their health-care coverage.
Although Bethlehem agreed, in an eleventh-hour pact with the United
Steelworkers of America, to maintain retiree health-care coverage for six
months after that termination, under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget
Reconciliation Act of 1986 or COBRA—and ISG subsequently agreed to do the
same—COBRA rates are expensive and must be paid by the retirees themselves.
A measure of relief did emerge in July when the State of Indiana certified a
health-care plan, offered by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which
eligible retirees aged 55 to 64 can purchase with a 65-percent advanceable
tax credit provided by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reform Act of 2002.
Meanwhile, many of Bethlehem’s retirees were taking another hit: the
reduction of their monthly pension payments by the Pension Benefit Guaranty
Corporation, which terminated the company’s pension plan in December 2002.
Whereas Bethlehem’s pension formula was based on a combination of years of
service and earnings, the PBGC’s is based chiefly on age, and employees who
went to work young, put in their 30, and retired early—earlier than age 62,
at any rate—suddenly found their monthly pension payment slashed.
If the writing off of legacy costs was one piece of the consolidation
puzzle, another one nearly as important was the cooperation of the USWA,
which on May 2, two days after the Bethlehem deal closed, reached a
tentative five-year labor agreement with ISG covering members at Bethlehem’s
former facilities. That agreement closely resembled the landmark agreement
which ISG had previously negotiated with the USWA covering members at the
old LTV Steel and Acme Steel facilities, but on issues like overtime and
vacation was more favorable.
Although grumbling could be heard, the rank and file appeared on the whole
to be satisfied with their leaders’ representation, satisfied enough at
Burns Harbor Division to re-elect Local 6787 President Paul Gipson to his
eighth term in a landslide on April 24, despite an aggressive hard-line
campaign waged by former president Paul Kaczocha. Satisfied enough too to
ratify the labor agreement overwhelmingly in June. By that time ISG had
largely completed its workforce reductions, and long-time workers who opted
to participate in the “transition assistance program”—for which ISG had set
aside $125 million—could only thank their lucky stars that they hadn’t
scratched the itch to retire any sooner. Members with 20 years of service or
more were given lump-sum payments equivalent to $2,000 per year up to a
maximum of $50,000.
While ISG and Bethlehem were working on their own thing last spring, a
melodrama of sorts was playing out elsewhere, as USS stumbled into a bidding
war with AK Steel for the assets of National. USS fired the first shot and
had every reason to believe that it would be the only shot. But AK bluffed
everyone into thinking that its gun was bigger and upped the ante not once
but twice. National like what it heard: it dumped the asset purchase
agreement which it had earlier reached with USS and entered into a new one
with AK, contingent on the latter’s ability to negotiate a new labor
agreement with the USWA.
Four words: snowball’s chance in hell. AK and the USWA both said publicly
that they were talking and maybe they were but neither side did a very good
job of concealing its contempt for the other. After several extensions of
the contract deadline—the first one hopefully by National, the others
indulgently by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, which had already granted AK
stalking-horse status—AK had to concede defeat. But not until it had tried
one last-ditch move: it affirmed its offer, still higher than the USS bid,
if National would only abrogate its contract with the union and terminate
retiree health-care coverage. The USWA promptly threatened to strike
National if it yielded to temptation. It didn’t. The winner was USS, which
in the meantime had successfully negotiated a new labor agreement covering
members not only at National’s facilities but at its own. In the end the
U.S. Bankruptcy Court declared the USS offer of $1.05 billion in cash and
assumed liabilities the highest and best bid.
The year ended on a sour note for the U.S. steel industry, when President
Bush buckled to pressure from the European Union in December and on Dec. 4
repealed his three-year schedule of tariffs imposed in March 2002 on
imported steel products. Those tariffs, the final piece in the consolidation
puzzle, were meant to keep cheaper foreign steel out of the U.S. market long
enough to give domestic steelmakers time to get on their feet. The loss of
the tariffs and the possibility of steeply falling steel prices failed to
put a damper on ISG’s initial public offering Dec. 12, though, when eager
buyers snatched up shares of the stock and sent its IPO price of $28 well
into the $30 range. ISG generated $531 million and, in the spirit of the
season, immediately spent $5 million of that sum on bonuses to all employees
equivalent to 20 hours at their current base rate.
•Politicians in Porter learned that they are in fact accountable to the
•Commercial development in Chesterton ramped up, with the construction of
the Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute at Coffee Creek Center, an Applebee’s
Neighborhood Grill & Bar and a City Savings Bank at the Pumpkin Patch, and a
Round the Clock restaurant on South Calumet Road.
•The Northern Indiana Public Service Company found itself up to its eyeballs
in unhappy Jackson Township residents, as it pursued plans to build a
regulator station—otherwise known as an odorization station—in the area of
C.R. 400E and Burdick Road.
•The European Market debuted in the parking lot of the Chesterton/Duneland
Chamber of Commerce.
•Indiana and Porter County bid farewell to long-time public servants: Gov.
Frank O’Bannon, Porter County Commissioner Larry Sheets, D-Center, and
Porter County Highway Superintendent Jack Jarnecke.
Portage resident Perry T. Marion, 44, dies in two vehicle accident on U.S.
Highway 20 in Porter. The Chesterton High School debate team wins tournament
at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Budget constraints force the
Duneland School Board to offer, for the second consecutive year, a single
late-starting scaled-down summer school. The Porter County Sheriff’s Police
deactivates its online sex-offender registry, after the Indiana Supreme
Court issues an injunction which prohibits the posting of sex offenders’
photographs and home addresses on the Internet.
The General Assembly convenes its 2003 session with a budget deficit
estimated at $800 million to $850 million at center stage. Porter County
Commissioners John Evans, R-North, and Dave Burrus, D-South, urge the Porter
County Council to enact an income tax. International Steel Group bids $1.5
billion in cash and assumed liability for the operating assets of the
bankrupt Bethlehem Steel Corporation.
Porter County Council members Karen Conover, R-at large, William Carmichael,
R-at large, and John Ruge, R-at large, voice their support of Porter County
Commissioners Evans and Burrus’ call to explore the feasibility and
desirability of an income tax. The Porter County Council agrees both to
spend and bank a windfall of $376,445 in suspected drug money seized by the
Indiana State Police in Portage Township in 1998: $18,822 to the Town of
Porter, whose drug dog was involved in the seizure, and an amount sufficient
to give county employees 50 percent of their usual longevity bonus, with the
balance placed in reserve. U.S. Steel Corporation signs an asset purchase
agreement with the bankrupt National Steel Corporation to acquire
substantially all of National’s assets for $950 million in cash and assumed
The CHS debate team wins tournament at Carmel High School. CHS students
Joanna Golando and Tamara Habib perform in the Indiana All-State Jazz
Ensemble at the Indiana Music Educators Association convention in
Indianapolis. Porter Memorial Health System raises rates an average of 4.78
percent, the lowest rate hike in 16 years.
The Chesterton Town Council agrees to rescind the appointment of Mark
Acevedo to the Board of Zoning Appeals and appoint John Kosmatka in his
place, after Acevedo’s acceptance of the position of Porter County Deputy
Prosecuting Attorney renders him ineligible under statute to hold a seat on
the BZA. Chesterton resident John Komenas, of Boy Scout Troop 929, earns the
Eagle Scout award. The Homeland Security Planning Committee of the
Northwestern Regional Planning Commission holds a regional terrorism
symposium at the Porter County Expo Center.
Lake-effect snow buries Duneland in surprise storm. Mike Harris is named
Duneland Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen at the Chamber’s winter
banquet, as Dave Perry assumes Chamber presidency. Horizon Bank moves its
Chesterton branch to 423 Roosevelt St. in Morgan Park.
The Duneland School Board names David Pruis, superintendent of Hamilton
County Schools, assistant superintendent of the Duneland School Corporation
to fill the position vacated by Dirk Baer on his assumption of the
superintendency at the start of the 2002-03 school year. Porter County
Commissioner John Evans urges municipalities to take a stand, yea or nay, on
a county option income tax, and calls on those municipalities which reject
it to pledge—should the Porter County Council enact such a tax—to return all
revenues to taxpayers in the form of property-tax cuts. Porter County
Sheriff Dave Reynolds temporarily suspends all officers of the Porter County
Police Reserves as part of an assessment and re-organization of that force.
The bankrupt Bethlehem Steel reports a loss of $429 million in the fourth
quarter of 2002, as International Steel Group and Porter County taxing units
negotiate an agreement on Bethlehem’s back property taxes. AK Steel
Corporation signs an asset purchase agreement with National Steel,
superseding U.S. Steel’s earlier APA with the bankrupt company, to acquire
substantially all of National’s assets for $1.025 billion in cash and
assumed liabilities; that APA is contingent on AK’s negotiation by March 17
of a new labor agreement with the United Steelworkers of America. Parents as
Teachers wins a $125,000 grant from the Discovery Alliance, enough to keep
the program afloat in the Duneland School Corporation for another year.
The Duneland Chamber of Commerce changes its name to the Chesterton/Duneland
Chamber of Commerce. In competition at Concord High School CHS debaters
Jessica Recchia, Jenny Starcevich, Abby Deuberry, Jill Holsclaw, Francesca Smith, and Tim
Zervos qualify for the National Forensic League national tournament in
Atlanta, Ga., in June. International Steel Group and Porter County taxing
units agree to the following settlement: ISG will pay $10.8 million of the
nearly $30 million in back property taxes owed by the bankrupt Bethlehem
Steel, it will pay those taxing units an additional $8.2 million in both
2003 and 2004, and it will drop all pending tax appeals filed by Bethlehem;
meanwhile, ISG forgives the remaining $450,000 payment owed by the Town of
Burns Harbor in its purchase of Bethlehem’s wastewater treatment plant and
agrees to give Burns Harbor $900,000 in each of the next four years for
“payment of services.”
Former CHS football coach Ray Banary Sr. dies at 69. AK Steel, in response
to an unspecified counter-offer by U.S. Steel, increases by $100 million its
original bid for substantially all of the assets of the bankrupt National
Steel. In a project whose estimated cost is $2 million, 130 homes with
contaminated wells in the Town of Pines will be placed on a Michigan City
water line which the Northern Indiana Public Service Company and Brown Inc.
jointly agree to build, although neither admits fault for the contamination.
After nearly 15 years of running Leonard’s Restaurant at 117 S. Calumet Road
in Chesterton, owner Chris Wratten retires, as Peggy and Jack Wellsand
assume proprietorship and change the name to Peggy Sue’s Diner. The CHS
speech team wins tournament at Elkhart Central High School. The CHS debate
team wins its sixth consecutive championship title at the state debate
tournament at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis and its 14th
championship title since 1984.
According to figures released by the Porter County Health Department, 9,800
children were served in 2002, a drop of 1,900 or 16 percent from 2001, and
24,200 immunizations provided, a drop of 4,600 or 16 percent from 2001;
budget cuts are blamed. International Steel Group and the bankrupt Bethlehem
Steel sign an asset purchase agreement under which ISG would acquire
Bethlehem lock, stock, and barrel for $1.5 billion in cash and assumed
liabilities. Johanna Boehm, a former 17-year member of the Porter Park Board
and 2000 Citizen of Year in the Town of Porter, dies at 85.
Gov. Frank O’Bannon names Westchester Township residents and longtime
environmentalists Herb and Charlotte Read Sagamores of the Wabash, the
highest citizen honor in the power of an Indiana governor to bestow. The
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois names AK
Steel the lead bidder for the bankrupt National Steel and confers on AK
stalking-horse status. The Board of Directors of the bankrupt Bethlehem
Steel approves the asset purchase agreement signed by Bethlehem and
International Steel Group.
CHS Drifter Rachel Poracky is named Outstanding Soloist in a Show, Sandpiper
Army Pavlock Outstanding Outstanding Female Soloist, and Mary Herrod Grand
Champion Soloist in competition at Danville, Ill. Around 425 residents argue
for and against a Porter County income tax at a meeting convened by the
Porter County Council at the Porter County Expo Center. The Indiana
Department of Transportation postpones indefinitely the construction of a
grade-separated interchange at the intersection of Ind. 49 and Indian
Boundary Road, after an engineering study concludes that crash data do not
The Burns Harbor BZA agrees to approve 16 variances for 271 single-family
units in a proposed subdivision located on a 50-acre parcel north of U.S. 20
and west of Ind. 149, dubbed Ironwood and under development by Cliff
Fleming. The Porter Town Council learns that $2 million in
state-administered grants, awarded to the town for construction of a link
between the Prairie Duneland Trail and the Calumet Trail, may not be used to
pay an estimated $175,000 in engineering fees accrued as part of the
project. Bethlehem Steel Chair and CEO Robert “Steve” Miller Jr. estimates
that between 3,000 and 4,000 employees corporate-wide—or 27 to 36 percent of
the workforce—could be eliminated when ISG acquires the bankrupt Bethlehem’s
assets; ISG CEO Rodney Mott immediately disputes that figure and says that
ISG is contemplating a workforce reduction in the area of 2,000.
The Porter County Plan Commission agrees to approve the primary plat for
Damon Run, a 162-lot residential subdivision located on a 75-acre parcel at
the southeast corner of Meridian Road and C.R. 900N, under development by
Sweetwater Properties LLC. Sgt. Dan Reynolds of the Chesterton Police
Department pleads guilty to a reduced charge of driving while intoxicated,
in connection with his arrest on the Indiana Toll Road in Porter County in
March 2001. Peter Manous, chair of the Indiana Democrat Party, resigns his
position amid reports that he and others are under investigation by the U.S.
Department of Labor for their dealings in the sale of Morgan’s Corner—50
acres in the Second Addition to Coffee Creek Corner—to the Indiana Regional
Council of Carpenters.
Chesterton resident Christian E. Stayrook, 28, dies in a two vehicle
accident on Ind. 8 in Hebron. A blizzard strands 33 Chesterton Middle School
students in Washington D.C. on an educational tour. The rank and file of the
United Steelworkers of America vote to ratify a six-year labor agreement
with International Steel Group, covering workers at the six facilities
formerly owned by the bankrupt LTV Steel and Acme Steel and acquired by ISG
from liquidation in 2002.
CHS seniors Mia Floritto, Angela Linsemeyer, and Michelle Forstz are named
finalists in the 2003 National Merit Scholarship program. The Chesterton
Town Council agrees to expand the town’s tax increment financing district by
the 120 acres which comprise the Pumpkin Patch and Tamarack Plaza planned
unit developments and 110 acres of the Third Addition to Coffee Creek
Center. The Porter County Local Government Funding Study Process Committee
unanimously accepts its three subcommittees’ reports on county financing,
and at the same time issues a statement in which it declines to endorse any
of the those subcommittees’ recommendations. Porter County Warrant Officer
Dean Pontjeris is named Police Officer of the Year by the Indiana
Association of Chiefs of Police. Porter Memorial Health System awards $1.2
million in bonuses to 1,617 full- and part-time employees.
The Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy completes a management plan partially
funded by a $43,375 grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental
Management and nearly two years in the making. More than two years after the
U.S. Environmental Protection launched a Superfund investigation of the
Brown Yard 520 landfill in Pine Township—where NIPSCO disposed of tons of
fly ash—the closure of the landfill is announced. Pines residents Bret
Nevorski, 32, and his son, Aaron Nevorski, 3, die in a two vehicle accident
on U.S. 20 in LaPorte County.
The Burns Harbor Town Council informs the Park Board at a joint workshop
that it has no funding to appropriate for the summer operation of Lakeland
Park. Kouts Town Council President David Brooks advises that Porter County
Council by letter that it is “plainly clear” that at least three members
would support a county option income tax. Porter County Assessor Shirley
LaFever tells the Porter County Commissioners that software problems and a
staffing shortage are likely to delay the completion of court-ordered
reassessment until late fall or early winter 2004.
Staffing cuts implemented by the Porter County Council force the Westchester
Township Assessor to limit office hours. For the second consecutive year CHS
students Brett Norris, Alli Retson, and Chesarae Wheeler, competing at the
third-year level, win the Indiana State Japan Bowl in Muncie and qualify for
the National Japan Bowl in Washington D.C. in April. AK Steel and National
Steel agree to extend by nine days, until March 26, the deadline by which AK
must negotiate a new labor agreement with the USWA or face the termination
of its asset purchase agreement with the bankrupt National.
The Porter County Election Board agrees to allow Edward Pilarski, who has
never previously registered as a Democrat, to run in the primary election as
a Democrat challenger of Porter Town Council President Kathryn Kozuszek,
after she and Porter Democrat Precinct Committee Member Donald Whisler
challenge Pilarski’s candidacy. The Chesterton Town Council agrees to
approve two waivers from Town Standards to improve traffic flow in and
around a proposed fuel center slated for development by Toll 49 LLC across
the street from the Hilton Garden Inn in the First Addition to Coffee Creek
Center. The Chesterton Town Council accuses the Porter County Council of a
lack of courage for waiting until after the 2002 election to broach the
subject of COIT.
CHS student Tamara Habib is named to participate in the 43rd annual Indiana
All-State High School Band Festival, sponsored by the Indiana Bandmasters
Association. The Porter County Council schedules a public hearing on COIT
for a special meeting March 24; the tax must be enacted by March 31 if it is
to take effect in 2003. Bethlehem Steel and International Steel Group
finalize an asset purchase agreement; meanwhile, the USWA negotiates a
last-minute deal with Bethlehem under which the bankrupt company will
maintain COBRA health-care coverage for six months following the expected
termination of retirees’ health-care April 1.
The Chesterton Town Council is unable to secure a quorum at a special
meeting called to set a public hearing on COIT. The Duneland School Board
awards a $282,300 contract to Gariup Construction of Gary to shore up the
foundation of the CHS stadium building. At the Plymouth High School
tournament CHS speakers Alison Vodnoy, Ryan Anderson, Francesca Smith, and
Evan Oliver qualify for the National Forensic League national tournament in
Atlanta, Ga., in June.
International Steel Group announces the placement of a transition team at
Bethlehem Steel Burns Harbor Division. The Chesterton Town Council agrees to
schedule a public hearing on COIT for 6 p.m. March 31 at the Chesterton
Middle School auditorium. Nearly 800 firefighters and EMS personnel attend
the 13th annual Duneland School of Emergency Response, hosted by the
Chesterton Fire Department.
The CHS speech team wins the state championship in Indianapolis. The U.S.
Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois extends to April 9
the deadline by which AK Steel must negotiate a new labor agreement with the
USWA or face the termination of its asset purchase agreement with the
bankrupt National Steel. The Porter County Council votes 4-3 to endorse
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York grants the
bankrupt Bethlehem Steel’s motion to terminate retirees’ health-care
coverage April 1. By a 2-3 vote a motion before the Chesterton Town Council
to endorse COIT fails; later that evening the Porter County Council votes
4-2 to enact a county economic development income tax after deadlocking 3-3
to enact a county adjusted gross income tax. Portage resident Lynnore Marie
Weber, 38, dies in the Porter County Jail of a ruptured berry aneurysm.
Motorcyclist Joseph Shambo Jr., 22, of Morgan Township, dies in a two
vehicle accident on C.R. 200W in Liberty Township. The strapped Burns Harbor
Park Board makes plans to operate a scaled-back summer program at Lakeland
Park funded by donations and seasonal revenues. The Porter County Park Board
establishes the first-ever entrance fee at Sunset Hill Farm of $3 per
vehicle, as county funding for operations there dwindles.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor challenges a 28-percent
increase in NIPSCO’s gas cost adjustment, provisionally approached by the
Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for March billing statements. The
Porter Town Council agrees to approve the Duneland School Foundation’s
request to hold a fundraiser in June at Porter Beach at which alcoholic
beverages will be sold. Porter County Auditor Sandy Vuko identifies a $3
million funding shortfall in Porter County government.
International Steel Group advises the represented employees of the bankrupt
Bethlehem Steel on the details of a transition assistance program: a
lump-sum payment $1,500 for each full year of continuous service for the
first 20 years, and of $2,000 for each year between 20 and 30 years, with a
maximum lump-sum payment of $50,000. AK Steel fails to negotiate a new labor
agreement with the USWA, while U.S. Steel does: a five-year contract
covering workers both at its own facilities and at the bankrupt National
Steel’s. AK Steel nevertheless reaffirms its $1.125 billion bid for
National, on the condition that National abrogates its collective bargaining
agreement with the USWA and terminates its retirees’ health-care coverage;
in immediate response the USWA threatens a strike of National if the U.S.
Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois approves AK’s bid.
Two last-minute bids for Bethlehem Steel emerge, but the U.S. Bankruptcy
Court for the Southern District of New York rejects them both as
illegitimate, leaving International Steel Group the sole bidder for the
assets of the bankrupt company and removing the need for an auction.
NIPSCO’s plans to build a regular station—also known as an odorization
station—on property north of Burdick Road and west of C.R. 400E in Jackson
Township draw fire from residents, who accuse NIPSCO of threatening to
pursue the condemnation of a retired farmer’s land if he refuses to sell the
utility acreage on which to build the station. National Steel terminates its
asset purchase agreement with AK Steel and declares U.S. Steel’s bid for the
bankrupt company’s assets the best and highest.
The Chesterton Police Commission agrees to demote Sgt. Dan Reynolds to First
Class Officer and to impose a retroactive suspension but to keep him in his
job following Reynold’s guilty plea to a charge of driving while
intoxicated. Motorcyclist Mark Thomas, 51, of Chesterton, dies in an
accident on Brummitt Road in Pine Township. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for
the Northern District of Illinois approves the sale of the bankrupt National
Steel’s assets to U.S. Steel.
The LaPorte District of INDOT installs a left-turn signal for eastbound and
westbound traffic at the intersection of Ind. 49 and Porter Ave. The
Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York approves the sale of
the bankrupt Bethlehem Steel’s assets to International Steel Group. Porter
Police Chief Len Smith announces his retirement after 34 years with the PPD.
The Porter County Sheriff’s Police announces cuts in some services in
response to the county’s funding shortfall. The Greek-flagged M.V. Milo,
bound for Antwerp, Belgium, loads 17,500 metric tons of steel coils produced
by International Steel Group, to open the 2003 shipping season at the Port
of Indiana. The Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals agrees to approve
variances for a new Round the Clock restaurant to be built at 1607 S.
Calumet Road, the former site of Lowther Auto Sales.
Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April works on six homes and at
various public sites in Duneland. The Town of Chesterton wins a seventh
consecutive Tree City USA title and a fourth consecutive Growth Award.
Chesterton Clerk-Treasurer Gayle Polakowski tells department heads to cut
their 2003 budgets by 5 percent.
Porter Memorial Health System agrees to operate the Porter County ambulance
service with half of its usual subsidy for the next seven years and to
donate $50,000 to help restore immunization cuts made by the Porter County
Health Department. The Porter County Council rolls back all county spending
to 1999 or pre-1999 levels. Paul Gipson is overwhelmingly re-elected to his
eighth term as president of Local 6787 of the USWA, despite an aggressive
campaign by his opponent, former local president Paul Kaczocha.
The Chesterton-Porter Rotary Club names Valerie Brown and Benjamin Blohm
winners of the 2003 Rotary Youth Leadership Award. CHS senior Angela
Linsemeyer is named a 2003 National Merit Scholarship scholar. Bethlehem
Steel Chair and CEO Robert “Steve” Miller Jr. begins signing the documents
which transfer the bankrupt company’s assets to International Steel Group.
The USWA reaches a tentative five-year labor agreement with International
Steel Group covering its members at the former facilities of the bankrupt
Bethlehem Steel. The Duneland School Board, citing the $15,000 cost,
declines for the second consecutive year to resume random drug testing at
CHS. The Duneland School Board agrees to allow the Duneland YMCA to move its
day-care program into a space at Chesterton Middle School.
The results of the 2003 primary election: in Chesterton Mike Bannon defeats
incumbent Town Council Member Gina Darnell, R-5th, and former member and
Republican John Kosmatka defeats newcomer Tim Emmons for the 1st District
council seat which Member Rich Whitlow has opted to relinquish at the end of
his term; in Porter Town Council President Kathryn Kozuszek, D-4th, defeats
Edward Pilarski, Republican William Sexton defeats Charles Bonner for the
1st District seat held by Democrat Jim Menn, and Republican Carol Pomeroy
defeats Sharon Thornton and Glenn Zaideman for the position of
Clerk-Treasurer held by Democrat Paula Deiotte.
The Porter County Council approves a resolution which opposes NIPSCO’s plans
to build a regulator station on land in Jackson Township. Longtime Porter
County Republican Party Chair Mike Aylesworth resigns to serve as executive
director of the Porter County Builders Association. The Porter County
Council cuts $4.1 million from the 2003 General Fund.
The CHS fine arts teams wins the regional tournament and qualifies for the
Super Bowl in Indianapolis. CHS senior Annie Madigan wins the Duneland
Exchange Club Accepting the Challenge of Excellence or ACE Award, while the
club names CHS senior Stephanie Nothelle Youth of the Year. As a
cost-cutting measure, the Chesterton Town Council agrees to consolidate all
nine precinct polling places into a single polling place at the town hall in
the November general election.
The Chesterton Utility Service Board opts not to raise rates this year but
rather to await the recommendation of a rate-study to be conducted early in
2004. The 21st annual W.R. Canright Outstanding Senior Journalist Award is
presented to CHS Sandscript feature editor Stephanie Nothelle and
editor-in-chief Kelly Hollingsworth. Staffing problems at the Porter County
Jail prompt Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds to seek the early release of
some non-violent offenders being held on Class D felony or lesser charges.
The Save the Dunes Shop in Beverly Shores celebrates its 30th year in
operation. Legislation expands the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning
Commission by giving 15 additional communities, including Burns Harbor,
Beverly Shores, Dune Acres, and The Pines the opportunity to become full
voting members. Porter resident Tracey Hall, 35, dies in a two vehicle
accident on U.S. Highway 20 in Porter, after Michigan City resident James
Kelley, 44, drives over a concrete median and collides with Hall’s vehicle;
police say that Kelley was intoxicated at the time of the crash.
Chesterton resident Mary Russell is named Outstanding Adult Educator of the
Year by the Indiana Adult and Continuing Education Association. The European
Market debuts in the parking lot of the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of
Commerce at 220 Broadway. The rank and file of the USWA ratify the new labor
agreement covering members both at U.S. Steel’s facilities and at the
bankrupt National Steel’s.
U.S. Steel closes the deal on its acquisition of the assets of the bankrupt
National Steel. Chesterton Tribune reporter Kevin Nevers wins first place in
the Community Affairs/Public Interest category of the Associated Press
Managing Editors Newswriting Contest for his 2002 series on the drug problem
in Duneland. A motion before the Porter Town Council to appoint Lt. Ed
Surgener of the PPD as Police Chief deadlocks 2-2, after Member and
Assistant Police Chief Jim Menn, D-1st, abstains and Clerk-Treasurer Paula
Deiotte declines to break the tie.
The Porter County Council agrees to double the monthly 911 fee, from 75
cents to $1.50, to cover the salaries of around 20 dispatchers, in the first
increase since the fee was established 13 years earlier. The Porter Town
Council agrees to shift the town’s annual fire-hydrant rental expense onto
the 1,044 Porter customers of Indiana-American Water Company, by
establishing a $46 per year fee. Portage Community Hospital unveils its new
helipad. CHS students Julie Biddle, Amanda Highsmith, Jackie Leach, and
Valerie Teets, and Valparaiso High School students Kacey Alexander, Cara
Kern, Carrie Ann Kennedy, Rebekah Porter, and Lindsey Stout, all of Girl
Scout Troop 565, win the Gold Award.
State Rep. Ralph Ayres, R-Chesterton, is named Porter County Republican
Party Chair. The Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute breaks ground in the First
Addition to Coffee Creek Center.
Indiana-American Water Company raises rates 21.6 percent in Northwest
Indiana, after raising them 18.25 percent in November 2002, to recover the
costs of major capital improvements, including a new $52.4 million supply
tunnel. The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District raises South
Shore fares by 10 percent, the first rate hike since 1996. Mary Ann Pal’s
“Weathered Sage” wins Best of Show at the 52nd annual Chesterton Woman’s
Club Art Show.
The Duneland School Board abandons a plan to run a sanitary sewer line to
the bus barn in favor of a less expensive septic mound system. The Porter
County Commissioners approve the request of Sheriff Dave Reynolds to
purchase 12 new squad cars, at a cost of $274,000, with federal bonus money
given to the county for housing federal prisoners at the Porter County Jail;
the balance of the bonus money is loaned to the ailing county General Fund.
Porter Memorial Health System physicians donate $25,000 to reinstate nearly
all of the child immunization programs slashed in 2002 due to county budget
Fire devastates the Porter home and recreational vehicle of Fred and Lucille
Cashner. For the second time the Porter Police Commission unanimously
endorses Lt. Ed Surgener of the PPD as its choice for Police Chief. The CHS
Class of 2003 graduates, in the school’s 113th annual commencement.
Monkeypox is reported in LaPorte County, a viral disease which officials
suspect the patient contracted from her pet prairie dogs, one of which was
treated at a Duneland veterinary clinic. The Chesterton Town Council slashes
the hours of Project Manager Janet Cypra from a maximum of 64 per month to
eight, to save up to $24,960 annually. Under an agreement approved by the
Chesterton Town Council, the Chesterton Fire Department will begin
responding automatically to fire calls when the Porter County 911 Dispatch
Center tones out the Pine Township Volunteer Fire Department.
The Porter Town Council votes 3-2 to reject the Police Commission’s
endorsement of Lt. Ed Surgener of the PPD as Police Chief, when Member and
Assistant Police Chief Jim Menn, D-1st, declines on this occasion to
abstain; the Police Commission returns to square one and votes unanimously
to begin the application process anew. Duneland Assistant Superintendent
Peter Morikes announces his resignation to become the Plymouth Assistant
Superintendent. Lifelong Chesterton resident, businessman, world traveler,
photographer, and history buff Howard Johnson dies at 87.
The Chesterton Police Commission rejects the request of Dennis Byron, owner
of the building at 225 S. Calumet Road, the future home of Popolano’s, to
remove the parking ban on East Morgan Ave. immediately east of South
Calumet. The rank and file of USWA overwhelmingly ratifies a new five-year
collective bargaining agreement covering workers at six former Bethlehem
Steel facilities now owned by International Steel Group. The Chesterton
Utility Service Board approves a $1,432,350 interest-free loan to the Town
Council in anticipation of Chesterton’s second 2003 property-tax draw.
The Porter County Sheriff’s Police says alcohol was involved in an accident
on C.R. 700N in Liberty Township which took the life of Center Township
resident Nathan Pritchard, 17, after the driver, Center Township resident
Scott McClure, 16, lost control of his vehicle and hit a tree. NIPSCO puts
its condemnation action on hold until it has completed a review of
alternative sites for a regulator station which the company wants to build
in Jackson Township. Lt. Ed Surgener of the Porter Police Department removes
his name from consideration as Police Chief.
CHS speaker Evan Oliver places third in Impromptu Speaking at the National
Forensic League national tournament in Atlanta, Ga. The Chesterton Town
Council approves a licensing agreement under which Mary Groff may operate a
hot dog cart from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays in the parking lot of the
Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce. Fire destroys the dining hall of
Camp To-Pe-Ne-Bee in LaPorte County.
The 1,700 employees of Porter Memorial Health System get a 4-percent raise.
Less than 24 hours after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that a state sex
offender registry law is constitutional, the Porter County Sheriff’s Police
reactivates its own on-line registry, with the names, photos, and home
addresses of 78 convicted sex offenders residing in Porter County. The fifth
annual Hometown Picnic is held at the Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy.
Burns Harbor resident Chris Tutor, of re-established Boy Scout Troop 928,
earns Eagle Scout award. Harry Ahn wins Peoples Choice Award at the 52nd
Chesterton Woman’s Club Art Show. The Porter County Commissioners appoint
Dr. Suhakar Garlapati, Dr. William Nowlin, Barb Young, Daniel Gavito, and
William Back to the Porter Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees.
The Pine Township Board of Trustees joins Neighbors Opposed to NIPSCO
Odorization Station in blasting the company’s plans for a regular station in
Jackson Township. Rainboutique, operated by Tracey Frye, celebrates its 20th
anniversary in Downtown Porter. The Porter Police Commission endorses Sgt.
John Lane of the PPD as Police Chief.
A series of electrical storms batters Porter County and disrupts service to
thousands of NIPSCO customers. An errant firework is blamed for a fire which
causes an estimated $40,000 in damage to the Chesterton home of David
Sjaaheim. NiSource Inc. sells two non-regulated subsidiaries, Columbia
Energy Resources Inc. and Primary Energy, in deal expected to raise $510
million in cash for debt reduction.
The Board of Directors of Lakeshore Festival & Events Inc., the
not-for-profit organization created to take control of the Oz Festival from
the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce, meets for the first time. The
Porter Town Council appoints Sgt. John Lane of the PPD as Police Chief. The
Porter Town Council deadlocks on the appointment of its representative to
the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission; 2-2 for Member Jim
Menn, D-1st, then 2-2 for Member Jennifer Granat, R-2nd.
NiSource Inc. cuts its annual dividend by more than 20 percent, from $1.16
per share to 92 cents. The ninth annual Gaelic Festival is held at Sunset
Hill Farm Park. U.S. Census Bureau figures show that Chesterton is the
fastest growing municipality in Northwest Indiana and the 13th fastest
growing in the state.
The Lake Erie Land Company announces the slated development of the largest
project to date at Coffee Creek Center: a 370,000-square foot retail center
under development by Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust of Southfield, Mich.,
scheduled to open in early 2005. Jerry Paglia, owner of Popolano’s at 225 S.
Calumet Road in Chesterton, razes the house at 119 E. Morgan Ave. to put in
a parking lot for the restaurant. The World Trade Organization rules that
tariffs imposed by President Bush in March 2002 on imported steel products
violate international trade rules.
The Porter Town Council votes 3-1 to appoint Member Jim Menn, D-1st, to the
Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. The Coffee Creek
Watershed Conservancy acquires a 29.4-acre wetland along the Little Calumet
River in Westchester Township, on the north side of the river north of
Indian Boundary Road, with funds provided by a federal grant program. U.S.
Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, secures a federal 75/25 grant to help fund a
$185,892 project which will bring sanitary sewer service to a cluster of
homes at the far end of North Calumet Road in Chesterton.
Aimee Kelley, 26, becomes the first female career firefighter to serve with
the Chesterton Fire Department. The Coffee Creek Life Center, a
not-for-profit rehabilitation facility for injured wildlife, obtains
variances from the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals which will allow it
to move from its current location in the Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy
to a site in Washington Township. CHS Principal Jan Bergeson resigns to
accept the position of high school principal in the Southern Hancock
Community School Corporation in New Palastine, Ind.
The Duneland School Board names former Duneland teacher Tim McGinty the new
principal of Westchester Intermediate School and Whiting teacher Greg
Guerney the new principal of Liberty Intermediate School. The Duneland
School Board approves a 1.5 percent raise to non-certified staff. The
Indiana Department of Commerce awards International Steel Group $36 million
in tax credits over the next 10 years, while ISG pledges to invest $272
million in capital improvements over the next four years. Federal Judge
Allan Sharpe overturns the conviction of shotgun killer Christopher
Peterson, convicted of the 1990 murders of Portage convenience store clerk
Singh Dhaliwal and motel clerk Marie Meitzler.
For retirees of steelmakers which have declared bankruptcy and terminated
their health-care coverage, the State of Indiana certifies a health-care
plan eligible for the 65-percent tax credit under the Trade Adjustment
Assistance Reform Act of 2002: Anthem Blue Access TAA, a product of Anthem
Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
The Burns Harbor Plan Commission approves the primary plat for The Village,
a 217-lot project located west of Ind. 149 and north of U.S. Highway 20 and
the first residential subdivision in the town for decades. NIPSCO retires a
natural gas line beneath Porter Ave. in Porter, between Lincoln and Rankin
streets, in response to a long-standing odor problem. The 45th annual
Chesterton Art Fair is held in Hawthorne Park in Porter.
International Steel Group announces its intention of taking the company
public, in an initial public offering expected to raise as much as $250
million. The Chesterton Town Council reaches a consensus to give town
employees a 3-percent raise in 2004 in addition to longevity bonuses of $75
per year of active service. The Chesterton Fire Department holds its second
annual fundraising street dance, the proceeds from which will be used to
The Chesterton Town Council agrees to ban parking on the south side of East
Morgan Ave. from South Calumet Road to Coffee Creek Bridge. The Porter Town
Council votes 3-1 to introduce an ordinance which would annex 1,267 acres of
unincorporated Westchester Township, over the vociferous objections of many
residents of the targeted area. International Steel Group agrees to swap the
No. 2 pickle line at its Indiana Harbor Works in East Chicago for the assets
of U.S. Steel’s plate business, including the plate mill at Gary Works.
The Burns Harbor Town Council agrees to grant International Steel Group the
same 10-year tax abatement enjoyed by Bethlehem Steel. The Burns Harbor
Economic Development Commission agrees to grant Dennen Steel use of the
town’s tax exempt bonding status to finance development of the Chicago Steel
site at 32 Technical Drive. NIPSCO isolates its service territory by cutting
the grid link to Michigan in the first minutes of the overload chain
reaction which caused the most widespread blackout in U.S. history.
Phil Baugher, director of the Westchester Public Library, is honored at a
surprise party for his 25 years’ service to the system. The Porter Town
Council declines to promise sanitary sewer service and other improvements to
the Westchester Township residents in the proposed annexation area. The
Duneland School Board names James Goetz as the new CHS principal and Monte
Moffett as the new assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
The Porter County Council agrees to give all county employees $1,000 raises,
at a cost of $425,000 to be offset by budget-cutting measures. Duneland
School Corporation figures show an increase of 40 students at the start of
the 2003-04 academic year, with the biggest growth in the middle grades.
Center Township resident Scott McClure, 16, admits to being intoxicated when
he lost control of his vehicle on C.R. 700N in Liberty Township, in a crash
which took the life of Center Township resident Nathan Pritchard, 17;
McClure is sentenced to home detention for 14 months.
The National Park Service completes the first phase of a deer management
plan at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the first such plan at the
National Lakeshore since it was established in 1966. CHS students Heather
Stavropoulos and Casey Freeman, members of the Northwest Indiana Pipe and
Drum Association, compete at the World Pipe and Drum Association contest in
Glasgow, Scotland. The Chesterton Town Council bans most parking on the
north side of East Morgan Ave. from South Calumet Road to Coffee Creek
Vandals bash lights at the Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy, causing
$10,800 in damage. Bud Tilden is named citizen of the year at the Taste of
Porter. County Commissioners finalize rate hikes for county’s planning and
building department. State Department of Health to pay $500 monthly to rent
space at county health department’s Portage clinic. Porter Park Board
discusses need for better maintenance at Lake Charles Park. School board
welcomes back three former Duneland employees by hiring John Corso as a
technology aide, Fred Mitchell as part-time athletic assistant, and Dave
Jones as remediation aide. Duneland School Foundation awards more than
$5,500 in grants for fall programs.
Commissioners refuse cities E-911 money for their own dispatchers. Duneland
Schools grapple with loss of $140,000 in state funding for bus service.
State Supreme Court uphold David Malinski’s murder conviction. Chicago man
drowns in Lake Michigan west of the Bailly Generating Station. Country
Squires Revisited circulates three petitions against Porter annexation.
Township assessors blast working conditions at County Administration Center
as efforts intensify to get 2004 tax bills out on time.
The former head of the Indiana Democrat Party, the son of the East Chicago
mayor, and a union boss are indicted in a land deal at Coffee Creek Center.
Armed man attempts to rob Chesterton Burger King but flees without any
money. U.S. EPA to expand water contamination study in the Pines. Chesterton
Town Council uses casino gambling revenue to upgrade police computer system.
Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon dies five days after suffering massive
stroke. Chesterton Town Council fines Alyce Bruhn Scott $5,000 for
burned-out home at 416 W. Indiana.
ISG Burns Harbor wins Saturn University Award. Friends of Tracy Hall host
major fundraiser for her two children. Liberty Township truck driver George
George escapes from being buried alive. Porter’s proposed budget prompts
opposition. Porter postpones second reading of its annexation ordinance due
to errors discovered in annexation documents. Burns Harbor Plan Commission
rules that Dennen Steel would be a compatible use. County Plan Commission
gives favorable recommendation to ordinance restricting adult-themed
businesses in unincorporated Porter County. NIPSCO ordered to refund
customers $3.8 million. Chesterton officers Pete Duda, Dave Cincoski and
Dave Lohse named to CPD command structure.
Burns Harbor council and residents frustrated by the slow pace of sewer work
details. Westchester Public Library agrees to comply with new federal
Internet laws rather than lose a $16,500 federal subsidy. Arson blamed for
fire that destroys Liberty Township barn at 25W 1050N. Liberty Township
resident Marjorie Ann Summers dies in car crash in Gary. Impact fee
consultant recommends that county government, Chesterton, Valparaiso and
Porter pursue impact fees. Armed robber takes $300 from Marathon Station on
U.S. 6 in Liberty Township.
Trojan Guard begins 2003 with two top honors. Porter County’s proposed
ordinance easing the rules on waste transfer stations attracts strong
opposition. Dune Acres Town Council issues warning about West Nile Virus
after a town resident becomes seriously ill from the virus. Porter County
Sheriff Dave Reynolds turns down $1,000 raise. Herb and Charlotte Read, U.S.
Rep. Pete Visclosky and ISG honored by the Northwest Indiana Quality of Life
Council. Chesterton Police commission upholds decision to fire Cpl. Brian
Sweeney. Porter County is designated a “Storm Ready County” by the National
Weather Service. Chesterton Planners clear the way for 10 new homes at
Duneland YMCA opens expanded day care at Chesterton Middle School.
Conference explores how economic development and environmental protection
can co-exist. Eight property owners in Porter’s disputed annexation area ask
Chesterton to annex them first. Valparaiso police officer facing internal
investigation found dead of apparent drug overdose. Chesterton mulls issuing
bonds for park improvements to be repaid by new income tax revenue. Marilyn
Laszlo of Liberty Township wins honorary doctoral degree. Chesterton Porter
Rotary Club bids farewell to its oldest member, Alfred P. Nelson, who is
moving. County expects shortfall of up to $300,000 in employee insurance
Porter Memorial Health System settles condemnation case with Dr. Christopher
and Michelle Wirsing, by paying $590,000 for 3-acre site. Chesterton
Redevelopment Commission agrees to spend $23,500 on its first project, a
loop detection system at the new traffic light at Indian Boundary and Sand
Creek Drive North. Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center celebrates
five-year anniversary. County Commissioner Larry Sheets dies at 61 due to
complications from a pulmonary infection. Chesterton and Duneland Chamber of
Commerce officials mull how to handle unsanctioned Wizard of Oz booths.
Indiana Dunes State Park campground to undergo $4.3 million improvement
project. The annexation war heats up as Porter votes 3-1 to take Chesterton
to court over its friendly annexation. Harbor Trails developers reach an
agreement for a new Burns Harbor park in the 81-lot subdivision. William
Carmichael is inducted into the Black Powder Hall Fame during the National
Muzzle Loading Championship. NiSource Inc. eliminates its chief executive
office post in restructuring. NIPSCO purchases a 2.3 acre parcel at 384 N.
Burdick Road for its natural gas regulator station, rendering moot its
condemnation action at the original Burdick Road site.
Report shows 36 Chesterton High School students were expelled in 2002-03
school year, up from 32 the year before. Commissioners release their first
draft of the income tax spending plan, calling for the funding for county
buildings, regional transit, roads, the county parks, and the north county
highway garage. Local 6787 and International Steel Group collect care
packages for the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. Burns Harbor Town Council
learns that the state wants the new directional signs in town larger.
County planners agree that transfer stations should continue to undergo
public hearings but will continue studying how to relax the rules. Thirteen
Dune Meadows residents in Porter petition against new park play equipment.
WPL agrees to buy three automatic external defibrillators. Chesterton Post
Office begins selling stamps aimed at preventing family violence. Chesterton
Muffler Man owner Jack Wellsand suffers serious injuries in motorcycle
crash. The organization known as Christmas in April-Duneland officially
launches new name as Rebuilding Together-Duneland and announces new board.
Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford dismisses town of Porter’s
request to block a public hearing on friendly annexation petition before
Chesterton. Chesterton Town Council approves 3 percent raises for town
employees. Chesterton High School senior Timothy Ebert is a 2004 National
Merit Scholarship semifinalist, while Erin Potrzebowski, Emily Lawson,
Kristin Totten and Dawn Clemons win National Merit commendations. Porter
Town Council forms committee to hash out transition issues related to its
annexation attempt. St. Francis Episcopal Church celebrates the consecration
of a new cross designed by parishioner John Habela.
James Ranfranz resigns as executive director of the Northwestern Indiana
Regional Planning Commission, after 36 years with the agency. Bethlehem
Lutheran Church parishioners transport 2,332 pound bell to their new church
on 1100N. Chesterton Police use an AED, possibly saving the life of a
Liberty Township man who apparently suffered a heart attack. With council
members Jennifer Granat and Michael Liebert absent, Porter Town Council
members Kathy Kozuszek, Guy Grasher and James Menn and Clerk Treasurer Paula
Deiotte cut the ribbon and host tours at new town hall. Neighbors Opposing
NIPSCO’s Odorization Station file complaint against NIPSCO with the Indiana
Utility Regulatory Commission. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says up
to 10 more homes in the Pines should be connected to municipal water due to
Chesterton Utility Board President Larry Brandt says relations with Porter
are excellent, despite what Porter says. Plans are outlined for up to four
prescribed burns in Dune Acres. Porter County Jail Building Corp. terminates
contract with prime contractor, Gariup Construction of Gary. CHS Speech and
Debate is named in top 100 in the nation by National Forensic League. CHS
student Sarah Copley is honored by U.S. Senator Evan Bayh for volunteerism.
Fifth annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer raises nearly $120,000.
Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department burns old Woodville general store
in training exercise. Augsburg Lutheran Church celebrates its 145th
Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals approves sign variances for Framing
Concepts. Attorney Robert Harper is appointed new county commissioner,
63-11, over Norm Hudson at Democrat caucus called to choose a replacement
for the late Larry Sheets. Framing Concepts is named Best Gallery in America
by Decor magazine. Chesterton Town Council annexes 20 acres of the 1,267
acres sought by Porter. Chesterton Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg
reconfigures the intersection at Indian Boundary and Sand Creek Drive N.
Porter Town Council member Jennifer Granat rips into legal fees for forced
annexation. Porter County Council calls for curtailed spending through the
end of the year. U.S. Steel reaches tax settlement with Porter County
resulting in payment of about half of the property taxes owed in 2003 and
full taxes in 2004. Tempers flare in Porter over forced annexation. County
Council lifts hiring freeze for number two post at county plan commission.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky unveils Marquette Green Way Plan to convert
industrialized lakeshore for public use. Fire destroys leaseback home on
Furnessville Road. Porter Memorial Health System sees surge in charity care.
Duneland School Board learns it will avoid borrowing for its general fund at
the start of 2004. NIPSCO asks state to dismiss complaint filed by NONOS.
Porter voters oust all Democrat incumbents, with Republican Jennifer Granat
the only incumbent re-elected. Paul Childress defeats council president
Kathryn Kozsuszek, William Sexton ousts James Menn, Sandy Boothe wins over
Michael Liebert, and Sandra Snyder defeats Guy Grasher. In the race for
Porter Clerk-Treasurer, Republican Carol Pomeroy trounces Paula Deiotte. In
Chesterton’s only contested race, Democrat incumbent Frank Sessa defeats
Joel Carney. In Burns Harbor, Democrat Jane Jordan wins over Sherry King for
clerk-treasurer, while Democrats Bernie Poparad and Louis Bain II are the
top vote getters over Chuck Tuter and Donald Carpenter for the at-large
seats and Democrat Jane McGee defeats Phyllis Constantine for the Ward II
seat and Republican Richard Bolinger wins over Wally Macciarella in Ward
County Commissioner administrative assistant Linda Walker announces
retirement. State finalizes tax rates in Porter County but takes the rare
move of reworking the figures for Burns Harbor due to a tax rate error.
Porter annexation committee fails to meet. Chad Lewis of Liberty Township is
charged in connection with a bad check scheme. Two of the five suspects in
the August, 2002 bank robbery in the Pines plead guilty. Pilot Travel Center
in Burns Harbor wins town approval for additional truck parking. Burns
Harbor Council grants holiday pay to full-time employees for the first time
since Bethlehem’s bankruptcy. Westchester Public Library Board reviews
proposal to expand hours, restore borrowing privileges to non-residents and
hire additional staff. Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals grants sign
variances for Advanced Auto at the Pumpkin Patch.
Parents As Teachers funding due to run out at end of year. Porter County
Election Board hears complaints about incomplete reports filed by Porter
Democrats. Chesterton High School Assistant Principal Barb Spencer outlines
trip to Japan for school board. Drake Builders of Valparaiso expects to
break ground within the next two to three months on an office and retail
project at Dickinson and Sidewalk roads. Duneland Schools report shows the
schools saved $251,359 in the past year due to energy savings program. Work
begins on Dune Acres emergency road to Porter Beach. Union boss Gerry
Nannenga pleads guilty in kickback scheme at Coffee Creek Center and is
expected to help prosecutors in the case against Kevin Pastrick and Peter
County Commissioners decline to take an official stand on NIPSCO’s
odorization station due to potential conflict with the county BZA. Porter
Beach property owners Dale Brewer and Martin Dobrzynski file suit seeking to
halt construction on house they say violated town requirements; town BZA
halts work on house until after a hearing takes place. Final tax bills are
finally in the mail. Splash Down Dunes in Porter plans expansion. Powder
scare briefly closes Chesterton Post Office. Northern Indiana Commuter
Transportation District approves budget that calls for continued
modernization but no fare hike. Indian Boundary Conservancy District
property owners, along with those in other conservancy districts, will pay
more on their tax bills this year due to an error in their tax rates.
Chesterton Town Council member Gina Darnell questions town spending in
Planned Unit Developments. Crowds flood township assessors’ offices with
complaints and questions over their reassessment. Dunes Country at
Furnessville developers announce plans for a restaurant, office space and
guest house at the Furness Mansion. Porter Town Council votes 3-2 on
annexation ordinance, but take no official action to adopt it. Karen
Spallina heads new festival group. CHS grad Christina Lucas promotes holiday
President Bush lifts steel tariffs in the face of trade war threats from
Europe, prompting strong local criticism. County Commissioners take stand
that NIPSCO must secure county BZA approval for its odorization station.
Porter learns that town doesn’t own the entrance road to Lake Charles Park.
Burns Harbor Council agrees that town’s share of income tax money should go
to parks. County Council votes 6-1 to clear the way for the new haz-mat
building in honor of the late Greg Phillips. Commissioners revise their
income tax spending plan by boosting the funding for the county parks and
regional transit while setting aside funds for an update of zoning
ordinances and the Geographic Information System.
Chesterton Town Council interviews 22 applicants for town boards.
Commissioners reaffirm support for Ind. 149 extension despite increasing
costs. Chesterton planners agree by consensus that town boundary should
extend to 900N, instead of U.S. 6, in 20-year plan. Ralph Ayres resigns as
Porter County Republican chair. Indiana Chamber of Commerce president tells
a local audience that pro-business tax changes could be gutted in the .
County Park Board hears calls for using income tax for land acquisition
instead of new barn project. Chesterton Tribune reporter Kevin Nevers wins
first place for his coverage on the ISG acquisition of Bethlehem Steel in
the Hoosier State Press Association contest. Peace Walkers in cross-country
trip make stop in Chesterton.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky introduces bill in Congress to reinstate steel
tariffs. Chesterton Town Council members reflect on years of service. Kathy
Ton is named woman of the year by the Duneland Working Women. Porter
annexation attempt officially ends, as town council opts to do nothing with
the ordinance. Burns Harbor Town Council approves 2004 salary ordinance
except for the park department. Chesterton Police Commission discusses need
for penalties for false burlgar alarms. Erin Potrzebowski is named Indiana
delegate in U.S. Senate youth program. Porter County Convention, Recreation
and Visitors Commission ends the year with a positive report. Porter Town
Council delays a decision to allow Dune Acres to pave two feet of Porter
right at way at the end of the new emergency road.
Burns Harbor approves tax exempt bonding for Dennen Steel. Local and state
officials mull impact from rising taxes on vacant land. Burns Harbor and
tenants in the Tech Business Center agree on a cost-sharing approach
extending a sanitary sewer. Richard Russell, a retiring leader in the Dunes
Moraine District of Boy Scouts, is named Sagamore of the Wabash. Chesterton
BZA approves sign variances for City Savings Bank. ISG stock goes on sale.
County Election Board warns Porter Democrats that they must file complete
finance disclosure reports. New directional signs in the Duneland community
are installed. Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission holds a hearing in
Indianapolis on NIPSCO’s request to dismiss citizen complaint. Duneland
Schools expects health insurance costs to rise 15 percent.
Chesterton Middle School Principal James Ton receives statewide
administrator award. Burdick Place residents learn it will cost about
$10,000 to bring Chesterton sewer lines to their subdivision. County
Commissioners revise their income tax plan to include funding for a
countywide economic development program. Porter BZA, in a 4-1 vote, upholds
building permit for disputed Porter Beach house, while tempers flare after
the attorney for the homeowner involved suggests that BZA member Paul
Childress received a campaign contribution from Dale Brewer, which he said
is not true. County Republican Party Central Committee determines at
emergency meeting that Jim Biggs filed his candidacy on time for the party
chairmanship; GOP caucus later selects Keith Hall as the new chair over
Tammy Kueck and Biggs
PMH Board increases rates 8.75 percent, while announcing plans for new
oncology center. Chesterton Plan Commission endorsee PUD amendment for
Hilton Garden Inn sign. Plans are underway to advance taxing units property
tax draws, even though questions remain over how much in taxes will need to
be refunded due to corrections and appeals. ISG workers get bonus equivalent
to 20 hours of their current pay. County Council lifts two-year-old hiring
freeze on vacancies. WPL resumes non-resident borrowing privileges. Duneland
teachers and administrators say a new contract should be ready soon.
U.S. Steel Corporation bows out of auction for bankrupt Rouge Steel. State
Trooper Scott Patrick fatally shot on I-94 ramp in Gary. County Highway
Superintendent Jack Jarnecke dies at 72. Edward Nemeth of Tippecanoe County
is named Porter County’s new juvenile court magistrate, replacing John
Shanahan. NICTD and the SouthShore freight service settle disputes related
to 1989 agreement. Out-going Porter Town Council discusses a clogged sewer
that causes restroom plumbing in the new town hall to back up under heavy
use. NIPSCO seeks proposals to buy additional electrical capacity.
Newly elected Porter Town Council sets special meeting on New Years Day.
Tribune analysis shows reassessment hurting renters, landlords and owners of