Chesterton Tribune

2003 in Review: Year of taxes and hope for steel

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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 2002.

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 borrowing privileges.

Steel

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 overpowering.

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.

Other News

•Politicians in Porter learned that they are in fact accountable to the voters.

•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.

January

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 liabilities.

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.

February

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 warrant it.

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.

March

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 COIT.

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.

April

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.

May

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.

June

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 woes.

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.

July

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.

August

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 purchase equipment.

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 Bridge.

September

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 Morgan’s Corner.

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 fund.

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.

October

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 contamination.

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 anniversary.

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.

November

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 III.

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 Manous.

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 compact disc.

December

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 historic homes.

 

Posted 12/31/2003