Chesterton Tribune

2004 Year in Review: Steel upsurge, ISG sale, building boom

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By KEVIN NEVERS and VICKI URBANIK

For once the steel headlines were good.

Consider: in 2003, U.S. Steel Corporation (USS) reported a net loss of $463 million; through the first nine months of 2004, USS has reported a net income of $623 million, a turnaround in less than a year of better than $1 billion. One could just as easily have imagined a skydiver whose chute has failed suddenly sprouting wings.

As it happens, the industry owes its good fortune in large part to China. Only a couple of years ago the country was dumping its own steel on U.S. shores. Now, hell-bent on modernizing, China is in the middle of a massive national infrastructure project and has acquired a voracious appetite for the stuff. Demand has surged, prices have soared, and though neither USS nor International Steel Group (ISG) exports much of its product, both have been the beneficiaries of a global sellers’ market.

In a year when the top story was steel, of course, the top steel story was the proposed merger, announced in October, of ISG with a company yet to be born: Mittal, a combination—still in the works—of the Netherlands-based Ispat International and Dutch Antilles-based LNM Holdings, both members of the LNM Group, the world’s second largest steelmaker. When the merger is complete —probably by the end of the second quarter—Mittal will have become the world’s largest by far, with operations in 14 countries on four continents, 165,000 employees, and a total annual capacity of 73 million tons.

Thus has ISG, the great consolidator of bankrupts—of Bethlehem, LTV, Weirton, and others—become the consolidated, and where once there were five making steel along the shores of Lake Michigan, now there will only be two.

Storm warning for 2005: at year’s end the Wall Street Journal was reporting that China is ramping up its own steel production and that in November it had become a net steel exporter.

Not everyone locally may agree that all was rosy with ISG in 2004.

The much-heralded tax agreement forged between ISG and local taxing units in early 2003 remained in limbo during 2004. Taxing units, including the Duneland Schools, Westchester Public Library and Burns Harbor, that were set to get a total of four payments had, by year’s end, only received one.

ISG maintained that its “payment in lieu of taxes” should be recalculated to reflect the lower values caused by reassessment completed in 2003. But some local officials, particularly those with the Duneland Schools, disagreed and said it was understood by all parties that ISG would pay in the range of $8.1 million.

By the end of the year, an effort was underway to get the state to clarify how it will treat the payments, and local taxing units were still waiting on their money.

Building Boom

Business was not only booming this year along the shores of Lake Michigan. It was also booming a few miles inland in Chesterton. In 2004 the town saw a continuation of the building frenzy which began in 2003, with the construction of the new WiseWay Foods at the northeast intersection of Ind. 49 and C.R. 1100N, the Galleria immediately east of the Jewel/Osco on Indian Boundary Road, and an Advanced Auto Parts in the Pumpkin Patch just east of the Galleria.

LEL

Coffee Creek Center, for its part, was not untouched by bulldozers. Construction of the Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute on Gateway Blvd. was finished, a Bob Evans Restaurant went up next to the Hilton Garden Inn, and the Pavilion Center—Coffee Creek Center’s first retail and office complex—was begun on Sidewalk Road.

Yet even so it was in some respects a gloomy year for the Lake Erie Land Company, after Kevin Pastrick, co-owner of Sand Creek Sales & Development, Lake Erie Land’s principal real estate broker, pleaded guilty on all counts to a kickback and cover-up scheme which greased the sale of 55 acres at Coffee Creek Center to the Northwest Indiana Regional Council of Carpenter Pension Fund Trust. Carl Paul Ihle Jr., president of Sand Creek Sales & Development, opted instead to go to trial; he was convicted in September on five counts. Meanwhile, Peter Manous—former head of the Indiana Democrat Party—also copped a plea and was sentenced in November to 27 months in federal prison and a fine of $200,000. Gerry Nannega, the pension fund trustee who accepted $65,465 in kickbacks in exchange for his vote in favor of the $10 million investment, pleaded guilty to three counts late last year.

The scandal has not so far penetrated Lake Erie Land proper, although the Citizens Action Coalition, breathing fire, has been urging U.S. Attorney Joe Van Bokkelen to dig deeper and probe wider, while the pension fund trust itself has retained the services of a top law firm to amend a civil lawsuit originally naming only Nannega to include, among other co-defendants, Lake Erie Land. The goal of that lawsuit: to recover at least half of the pension fund trust’s investment, after a recent appraisal put the value of the 55 acres at only $5 million and change.

County Government

The year 2004 was the first full year for appointed Center Township Commissioner Robert Harper—and he took the ball running.

Curbside recycling, an unsafe building program, a safety committee aimed at cutting insurance costs and a short-lived finance committee all got off the ground in large measure because of Harper. But his biggest feat was quite possibly the passage of a county open space ordinance, which was strongly opposed by developers and which became a key issue in the commissioner races.

Elections

The elections of November set the stage for what will likely be an interesting year in county politics: after Dave Burrus switched parties and joined the Republicans in the primary, he was ousted in the fall by Democrat Carole Knoblock, giving the Democrats a 2-1 majority on the board of commissioners. The election of Dan Whitten sealed up a 4-3 Democrat majority on the Porter County Council as well, giving the county Democrats control of the two major county boards and significant powers over county hirings and board appointments.

County Hospital

The county-owned Porter Memorial Hospital had far from a quiet year, with two board resignations and one board member ousted by the Porter County Commission-ers.

Though allegations of fraud raised by a fired executive in the spring were quickly refuted by hospital officials, the accusations gave rise to a new watch dog group formed by a vocal opponent of the hospital’s abortion policy. The group maintained a presence at nearly every board meeting for the remainder of the year, sometimes dominating the monthly media coverage. Some county officials renewed talk of a possible sale of the hospital.

The hospital announced during the year that it would henceforth do business under the simple name of “Porter” while retaining the historic Porter Memorial name for legal purposes.

January

The Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission wins $500,000 grant for its new visitor center. The new Porter Town Council removes curbs on public comment at meetings. Carpenters Union sues its former secretary Gerry Nannenga over the Coffee Creek land deal. Chesterton Town Council unanimously elects Bob Crone president and John Kosmatka, vice-president, for 2004. Liberty Township barn at 719 N. Meridian is destroyed in fire. Antique dealer Carol Bratcher dies at 80. Lifelong Furnessville resident Willis Grieger dies at 93. Marie Chochola, grandmother of Bill and Jonnie Lee Jeffries of Chesterton, celebrates 100th birthday. Mike Griffin is elected Duneland School Board president.

Head Start at Westchester Intermediate School is at full capacity with 20 pre-schoolers. A suspicious device at International Steel Group-Burns Harbor is found to be harmless. Porter County officials declare another financial emergency in order to extend an internal loan repayment. County Assessor Shirley LaFever pleas for more staffing in response to 3,000-plus property tax appeals. Michael Frasch of Liberty Township faces charges of child porn and forgery. Porter County Council re-elects William Carmichael as president and Rita Stevenson as vice-president. Flooding in the kitchen at the County Jail prompts questions from commissioners.

Carole Knoblock announces she’ll run against fellow Democrat Dave Burrus for commissioner. County Council requires planning and building department to generate its own budget from fees. County Park Board agrees to use its share of income tax revenues for land acquisition and construction of activity center. Pines residents and the Hoosier Environmental Council sue NiSource Inc. over contaminated groundwater. George W. Andershock of Chesterton dies at 85. U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky speaks to more than 60 residents in Porter. New Chesterton Town Council member Mike Bannon calls for planning workshops. Chesterton Town Council corrects oversight and inserts Utility policies into town code. Indiana American Water Company announces it will trim the 14.7 percent water rate hike it originally sought.

Christian Community Action launches “Raise the Roof “ campaign toward a new homeless shelter. Town of Porter declares fiscal emergency. Porter Redevelopment Commission moves to repair a blocked sewer line that’s been flooding the restroom, prohibiting use of the new town hall. Jim McGee is elected president of Burns Harbor Town Council. Westchester Township leads the county in number of property tax appeals; Chesterton homeowners in the downtown area are hit the hardest by reassessment’s “neighborhood factor.” Visclosky and the United Steelworkers of America blast Indiana gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels for his opposition to steel tariffs.

Westchester Public Library announces plans to phase in computers for public use. PCCRVC awards $7,585 in matching grants to six groups, including the Chesterton Fire Department. Violinist Ole Steffen Dahl dies. Half of Jackson Elementary’s morning kindergarten class attends the school’s highly praised K-Care program. Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve wins national landscape award. St. Paul Lutheran Church Pastor Robert Duncan retires. Chesterton High School graduate Michael Gotch gets standing ovations for his performance in Amadeus in Louisville. Duneland ISTEP scores are brought down by scores from students in special education and the free/reduced lunch program.

Westchester Intermediate School sixth grader Mariah Russell is honored by school board for her honesty during the Christmas season. Former Portage Mayor Robert Goin dies at 74. Two 17-year-old Chesterton boys face charges in connection with the burglary at Gelsosomo’s Pizzeria. Porter Town Hall reopens. County Commissioners vote 2-1 in Center Township mixed-use rezoning case strongly backed by developers and builders. Visclosky secures $4 million to upgrade South Shore line. The four-month old dispute over reconstruction of a Porter Beach cottage heads back to court. Chesterton/Duneland Chamber awards ceremony honors Joy Johnston of the Duneland United Churches Resale Shop as the Athena Award winner, Jim Jeselnick of Quality Search and Kent Mishler of Centier Bank as Volunteers of the Year, Ken and Pat Bauer of Framing Concepts and Chesterton High School Assistant Principal Barbara Spencer for “Putting Duneland on the Map,” and Bertha Still as Senior Service award winner.

Carl Paul Ihle Jr. is indicted in connection with the Coffee Creek land deal. Chicago redeveloper eyes old Jewel/Osco site. ISG to close Chicago Cold Rolling. Chesterton BZA grants sign variances for Round the Clock restaurant. Dave Burrus announces switch to Republican Party. Long-idle Porter Stormwater Board is revitalized. Chesterton High School senior Brett Norris is named a Class of 2004 Wells Scholar. Chesterton applies for state grant to design Crocker water line. Chesterton town officials rap Wizard of Oz fest for expense and sprawl, prompting strong outcry from Oz supporters. Town of Chesterton issued more permits for single-family homes in 2003 than in any other year in past decade. St. Patrick third graders create chronology of Duneland from 1816 to 2002.

State Rep. Ralph Ayres attempts to revise the state curfew law struck down in court. Indiana Legislature overrides governor’s veto of wetland rules, though local lawmakers Ayres, Charlie Brown, Duane Cheney and Rose Antich-Carr unite in support of the added wetland protection. Firefighters from Chesterton, Porter and Burns Harbor help Portage in a fruitless attempt to save the old Crisman School built in 1928. WiseWay surveys customers, prompting rumors over the fate of the Broadway Avenue store. Porter BZA decides to defend the town’s role in Porter Beach home dispute. U.S. EPA confirms presence of boron in three Beverly Shores, triggering emergency for Pines well-water. Porter Memorial Health System posts better financial report than projected. NIRPC seeks donations to cover costs of a professional job search firm for new director.

Jack Wellsand returns home for the first time following his October motorcycle crash. NIRPC misses transportation deadline. Ayres is one of only eight House Republicans to vote in support of optional full-day kindergarten. NiSource reports lower earnings for 2003. Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation awards $60.2 million bid to replace the 1928 signal system. Marian Kalbe, founder and director of Westchester Neighbors Food Pantry, dies at 61.

February

CHS Debate Team qualifies six students for nationals. County toughens septic rules. County Commissioners hire Indianapolis law firm to fight south-county landfill. Howard Vedell spearheads plaque to commemorate the carpenters who built Chesterton’s bandstand. County Commissioners plan to cut their County Economic Development Income Tax plan after learning the wrong formula was used in the calculation, reducing projected revenues. Commissioner Robert Harper proposes a joint finance committee with the council. Burns Harbor Park Board welcomes new member Leann Perrine. Porter County puts additional appropriations on hold. Fees are hiked at Sunset Hill Farm County Park. CHS Debate Team wins 15th state championship. Chesterton finalizes its CEDIT spending plan that includes new sidewalks along 1100N, a renovation of Dogwood Park, paving of 100E, widening of 1050N, and installation of sport lighting at Dogwood Park. County auditor calls on 14 taxing units to return a total of $1.9 million in overpayments, with Burns Harbor the hardest hit.

Chesterton approves Oz Fest dates, ending speculation that the fest will be canceled. Porter’s financial problems grow deeper. Burns Harbor Town Marshal Jerry Price commends Assistant Chief Howard Morgan, officers Ken Tomasko, Art Elwood, Paul McKamey and John Ryan and Chesterton detective Dave Adkins. H.B. Snyder of Dune Acres dies at 71. Porter proposes recovering accident investigation costs by billing insurance companies. ISG donation of $527,700 fulfills the fundraising goal of the United Way of Porter County, which has raised $1.8 million.

Burns Harbor officials rip how the county handled the overpayment of $1.3 million in incorrectly disbursed funds. Burns Harbor Fire Department commends Aluminum Welding for providing free specialty welding when the town couldn’t afford the work. Glenn Wagner takes the helm as the new president of the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce. Taxing units get early access to CEDIT money thanks to unique language passed by lawmakers. Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy wins a $68,837 federal grant to hire full-time staff to implement the watershed plan.

County Commissioners finalize their CEDIT spending plan. Utilities Board retains an attorney in the dispute with contractor Bowen Engineering of Crown Point. Duneland School Board finalizes plan to renovate an unused part of Chesterton Middle School for an alternative school and the central administrative office. School Board agrees to cut meetings to one per month and give superintendent authority to finalize staff resignations. ISG acquires bankrupt Wierton Steel Corporation in a deal valued at $255 million. NIPSCO gets 5,200 applications for 175 jobs. Commissioners make exception to county vacation policy for former recorder Jacquelyn Sterling. Chesterton planners hear new request for rezoning at the triangle at 1100N between South Calumet Road and 100E. Suspicious package at the Portage UPS Store turns out to be heroin shipment.

Sand Creek Country Club Chef Travis Dale named Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation. Burns Harbor officials learn that the park department received $65,000 in unappropriated funds. Katherine Cook resigns from Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals. New child care consortium seeks sponsors. Thomas McDermott resigns from Northwest Indiana Forum. Officials outline the Chesterton Hometown Improvement Project. Regional Transportation Authority is at a crossroads with funding committed by Porter County but defeat of Lake County-based tax.

Porter struggles with borrowing from the town’s redevelopment fund. Parents raise concerns about the Impact Bible study group in Chesterton home. Chesterton Art Center honors Vivian and Leo Twit, Ann Ruge, and Walter and Gloria Rector. Porter Memorial Health System to lease space for a Valparaiso economic incubator at its building on Lincolnway. Chesterton BZA grants variances for redevelopment of old Jewel site. CHS Trojan Guard names Megan Kellogg as outstanding auxiliary member, Jessica Hargarten for drum major award, and Joanna Golando as outstanding guardsman.

March

Porter Town Council increases its debt by $200,000 to ease cash flow difficulties. U.S. Attorney seeks limited immunity for Carl Paul Ihle Jr. in exchange for his testimony in Coffee Creek land deal. Duneland Schools consider joining regional coalition focusing on student achievement. Duneland teachers Ralph Ayres, John Becking, Linda Kilander and Lorene Schaudt to retire. Duneland United Churches Resale Shop decorates window in honor of soldiers Aaron Downey and Aaron Swichard, both home from Iraq for a visit.

Porter County Commissioners approve ordinance requiring parents and guardians to reimburse the county up to $110 per day for housing their kids in the Juvenile Detention Center. Chesterton Park Board members study skateboard parks in other municipalities. Commissioners decide to give up old county home. Chestnut Hill residents air complaints involving substance use at Impact youth group, later prompting the group to relocate to Liberty Bible Church. Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy to stop sponsorship of annual picnic, with the event to be run by Duneland Exchange Club, Chesterton Lions Club and Rebuilding Together Duneland.

Children’s garden approved for Sunset Hill Farm County Park. County park naturalists turning down requests from schools due to lack of funds. Commissioners endorse ordinance requiring curbside recycling in the unincorporated areas. Chesterton Middle eighth grader Dan Baughman qualifies to compete at the state level of the National Spelling Bee.

CHS Speech Team wins sectional tournament. Veterinarian Larry Reed recovers after near-fatal bite from a western diamondback rattlesnake. Ann Ruge of First State Bank of Porter dies at 88. Chesterton, Porter and Burns Harbor town councils back a renewed community effort against drug use. Emersen Delaney named to Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals. Porter Town Council launches a $4,500 rate study to determine if sewer rates need to be increased. Porter nixes user fees for accident victims. Burns Harbor Town Council refuses to fund $1,100 to pay for town firefighters to attend regional training school in Chesterton.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources revokes Dune Acres deer cull permit after two of the designated shooters face charges of using a spotlight and hunting after legal hours; residents strongly defend the hunters and deer kill. Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission awards $31,000 to 20 groups for festival promotion. Westchester Public Library to study move of Westchester Township Museum to the Brown Mansion. CHS speech team captures six national slots and places first as a team. Duneland School Board awards 2 percent raises to administrators and teachers. State Rep. Ralph Ayres‚ bills dealing with runaways, missing children and mechanical bills are signed into law by Gov. Joe Kernan. Porter BZA and plan commission hear preliminary plans for an outdoor sign at strawberry field. Porter Memorial Health System officials confirm possible expansion of Chesterton Medical Center.

Dan Keilman returns to Duneland to coordinate middle school alternative program. Citizens give input on drug use at Chesterton Town Council-sponsored forum. County council and commissioners air their differences over salaries for 911 staff. Chesterton Town Council rejects request from Comcast to close local cable office. County Council approves $13,835 to hire outside law firm in fight against landfill. Porter Town officials set Beam Street as the connecting route for hike/bike trail.

County Plan Commission receives first draft of a new open space ordinance. Porter town officials seek state help to solve U.S. 20 flooding. County agrees to begin distributing economic development income tax revenues to cities and towns. Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District management and union clash over proposal calling for conductors to supervise more commuter cars. Porter County Election Board sets a special meeting to investigate a complaint that the children of former Porter Town Council President Kathryn Kozuszek voted in Porter without legally living there. Chesterton United Methodist Church converts former Bethlehem Lutheran Church into activity center.

April

Chesterton Tribune celebrates 120th anniversary. National Forensic League honors CHS Speech and Debate Coach James Cavallo with his fourth Diamond Key. Porter Memorial Health System studies how to improve bill collection process. County Park Board rejects request to move most of Oz Fest to Sunset Hill Farm County Park. Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper is appointed by Gov. Joe Kernan to new child protection task force. County Park Board agrees to offer to take over former County Home grounds. Burns Harbor firefighters are able to attend regional emergency school thanks to Val’s Pizza and Grinders. Pines Elementary School well water is contaminated. Citizens comment on Duneland Schools possibly resuming its drug testing program. Duneland Community Church announces Power Team presentation in Duneland Schools. Chesterton Park Board hears arguments for and against new skateboarding park. Commissioners form committee to study former County Home. Commissioners agree to join Lake County RTA. NIPSCO and Brown Inc. agree to pay for city water for 140 Pines homes. CHS wins National Japan Bowl championship. Westchester Public Library Board approves capital projects fund plan of $240,136.

Both sides square off in court over south county landfill. Robert Michael Griffin dies at 90. Dune Acres Clerk Treasurer Patrice Bapst resigns. Chesterton Town Council discusses a “community assessment” in anti-drug campaign. Robert J. Paulson dies at 83. CHS and CMS install defibrillators. Chesterton approves first phase of a new aerial survey for $26,457. Residents speak out against Beam Street as route for Porter trail. U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky wins county commissioner support for extending rail service. Peter Manous pleads guilty in Coffee Creek land deal.

Dr. Mann Spitler tells the story of his daughter who died after shooting up heroin. Porter Police Commission ponders future of midnight parade. Sigrid Anderson retires after 53 years as Augsburg Lutheran organist. Chesterton Police investigate two burglaries at CMS Glad Rags breaks ground at Coffee Creek Center. Conservationist James Fallis dies at 87. Two Hebron teens die in crash. Community Action Drug Coalition raises more than $20,000 at the first annual Walk Away from Drugs at the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve. CHS, CMS and Liberty Intermediate fail to meet federal No Child Left Behind benchmark. Former Fairhaven student Spc. Jonathan Kephart, 22, dies in Iraq. Lakeshore Festivals and Events Board approves a $1 entrance fee to Wizard of Oz. Porter Town Council President Jennifer Granat will go door to door to take community input over drugs. Porter County Solid Waste Board approves curbside recycling in the unincorporated areas. Porter corrects errors in zoning map.

Liberty Intermediate School student Ann Thompson, 11, wins national theater competition. BZA cautions residents to take care when hiring contractors. Cindy and Nick Tilden restore Imhof Drug building in downtown Porter. Chesterton BZA grants variances for Chesterton Feed & Garden Center expansion. More than 400 volunteers turn out for the seventh annual Rebuilding Together Duneland. A jury awards $9 million in damages to Christopher Berrier of Porter in faulty treadmill case. Town Council rejects Oz Fest gate fee. Porter considers alternative route for town trail link. Chesterton council enacts false alarm ordinance.

County Council once again rejects funding for more help for assessors. County Council retains hiring freeze. County to refund merit officer pension payments. ISG reports net income of $70.9 million in first quarter of 2004. NiSource reports net income of $213.5 million for first quarter, a drop compared to a year ago. Porter County Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa dismisses charge of sexual battery against Glenn Hepp of Chesterton, who is convicted of burglary in connection with the 1001 entry in Chesterton. Porter police discuss emerging problem of nitrous oxide use.

May

State approves town of Porter’s 2004 budget allowing the town to spend $2.8 million; Chesterton’s is approved at $3.7 million. Duneland School Board agrees to drug test students based on suspicion only, not to reinstate random testing. ISG buys Georgetown Steel. Porter County Election Board, after hearing nearly three hours of testimony in the Kozuszek case, vote 2-1 against forwarding the case to the prosecutor on charges of election fraud. Questions arise over why Porter town officials removed beach sand from parking lot.

Republican voters oust John Ruge from the Porter County Council in the GOP primary, nominating incumbent William Carmichael, Jim Burge, and Robert Wichlinski. Dave Burrus easily staves off a Republican primary challenge from Eugene Manago. In the Democrat primary, Dan Whitten, Laura Dudley and Joseph Kasper defeat three other contenders for nomination to the county council.

First Chesterton Hometown Improvement Project attracts 150 volunteers to spruce up town. Porter County Wildlife Management Advisory board members Dr. Lawrence McAfee and Maryann Zona-Gregg present the county park board with a budget for improvements to the Zona wildlife sanctuary. Teen is charged with 2003 burglaries of Chesterton restaurants. Power Team visits the Duneland Schools. Duneland YMCA honors board members Jim Hurst, Mary Bradford and Chuck Parsons. Chesterton approves Oz Fest contract. Town of Porter seeks to limit its liability in midnight parade by giving responsibility for the event to an outside group.

Indiana Street residents in Porter make it clear they do not want the hike bike trail along their road. Ind. Gov. Joe Kernan names State Rep. Ralph Ayres to a study group on early childhood education. Local builder Dave Milosevich asks Chesterton Park Board to begin testing playground equipment for arsenic. County planners forward open space ordinance for public comment. Singing Sands student life editor Christine Vidimos wins the 23rd annual W.R. Canright Outstanding Senior Journalist award at the annual CHS Student Press awards dinner. Burns Harbor Town Council expresses opposition to sales of alcohol at gas stations.

Reports shows that tourism in Porter County is on the rebound. Kevin Pastrick agrees to plead guilty in Coffee Creek land deal. Property tax bills are late again in Porter County, but other counties are faring much worse from reassessment. Porter police search for ways to cut gas consumption. Porter County juvenile officials express concern over new state law that requires criminal background checks of relatives and everyone living in their household before children in abuse and neglect cases can be placed in their care.

Valparaiso Police arrest man after foot chase that resulted in 15 bags of heroin and crack cocaine begin found in his vomit. Waste haulers say they cannot meet July 1 deadline for curbside recycling. Chesterton couple is charged with marijuana cultivation. CHS Speech and Debate Team holds annual awards dinner, with Outstanding Program Contribution awards going to Ben Blohm, Liz Fox and Jessica Recchia. Porter looks at health insurance options for town workers. Commissioners tackle moisture problem at county courthouse. Porter Plan Commission unanimously recommends vacating town roads in National Lakeshore.

Citizen Action Coalition calls for wider probe of Coffee Creek land deals. People In Need of Environmental Safety funds new round of well water tests in the Pines. Chesterton Plan Commission endorses 37-lot Touch of Green planned unit development. Drug search in CHS parking lot turns up nothing. A 24-year-old Montana woman is killed on U.S. 20 in Portage after hit by unidentified vehicle. Howlin’ Hill, a lost turret dune destroyed more than 40 years ago for the Port of Indiana, is remembered in David Tutwiler painting.

Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District approves up to $32 million in bonds for the on-going $80 million modernization project. New nature center at Sunset Hill Farm County Park is dedicated. Porter Superior County Judge William Alexa rules that the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals was within its legal right to vote against the south county landfill. Chesterton Town Council considers reclaiming its building now being leased to the Chesterton-Duneland Chamber.

Former Chesterton teacher and community leader Martha Ellen Miller dies at 81. Pastor Rex Mitchell dies at 80. Porter County Plan Commission vote 7-1 in favor of a rezoning for 112-lot Eagle Ridge subdivision in Liberty Township. Mother-daughter team of Mary and DeBorah Stipanovich design the 2004 poster for the 53rd annual CFWC Chesterton Women’s Club Art Show. County Council lifts hiring freeze on budgeted but vacant posts. Franklin Food Mart owner Steve Neitzel hopes to reorganize the midnight parade in Porter. County Council approves borrowing for child protection fund shortfall. Commercial projects mushroom in Chesterton.

June

Porter resident Mary E. Martin and Gregory Bruner of Merrillville die in motorcycle crash on Brummitt Road. NIPSCO and union reach contract agreement. Porter County Commissioners support spending $50,000 toward public purchase of farm line in south county. Town of Porter park department’s 2005 budget will be at ’03 levels. Liberty Bible Church Senior Pastor Bill Jones is named Pastor of the Year. County Parks grapple with Calumet Bicycle Trail upkeep.

CHS commencement honors 369 graduates. Fred Semmler of Beverly Shores takes Best of Show at 53rd annual Chesterton Woman’s Club Art Show. Duneland School Board stands by its policy of not allowing home-schooled students to take courses in the public schools. School Board approves raises of 2.75 percent for classified staff and 2.25 percent raises for administrators. School Board agrees to revisit policy on public presentations after Chesterton resident Marjorie Crawford raises concerns over Power Team presentation in the schools.

Youth and adults tell Chesterton Park Board that an extreme sports park is needed. Fire destroys James and Barbara Bottorff home in Jackson Township. Porter finalizes ordinances on parades. Burns Harbor Plan Commission rejects proposed truck maintenance facility for Pilot Travel Center, putting the rest of the project in limbo. Porter County Plan Commission votes 5-3 in favor of open space ordinance. Burns Harbor Park Director Kim Burton is praised for action in emergency at the park.

CHS math teacher Todd Talbert is killed in crash in southeastern Indiana. Liz Fox of CHS is named in top 10 in the nation in National Forensic League. To bypass the restrictions in a new state law curbing spending by libraries, Westchester Public Library limits 2005 budget increase to 4.9 percent. Westville residents Scott and Gwendolyn Kamradt killed in crash on U.S. 6 in Jackson Township. County auditor, assessor and recorder shut down office in observation of former president Ronald Reagan’s funeral without approval by commissioners.

Chesterton Town Council votes not to renew its lease of the former New York Central Passenger depot at 222 Broadway to the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce. Chesterton officials learn that the state does not intend to replace the concrete divider on 49 Bypass. Chesterton Town Council member John Kosmatka resigns his seat to take a job with the U.S. Embassy in Russia. County Commissioners rezone land for Eagle Ridge subdivision in Liberty Township. J&F Steel Corporation in Burns Harbor is sold to Ryerson Tull Inc.

Porter County Solid Waste District moves back recycling start-up date to Feb. 1 of 2005. Landfill developers announce they’ll appeal Judge Alexa’s decision supporting the county in landfill rejection. Town of Porter deals with new federal requirements on stormwater. Builder Mark Markovich complains that Porter’s building requirements are too stringent. Liz Fox takes national championship in Original Oratory in National Forensic League competition. County Juvenile Detention Center director Ken Perkins wins Marilyn Niequist award for his efforts on behalf of troubled kids. New Cub Scout training center is planned at Camp To-Pe-Ne-Bee.

Porter Council considers cutting its own salaries. Joshua Brown, a 2004 CHS graduates, earns Eagle Scout rank. Porter County Council refuses funding for south-county rail line acquisition. Assessors in Westchester, Jackson, Center, and Porter townships win additional funds for hourly help to catch up with reassessment work. County Council grants $25,000 for more part-time help in public defenders office. Town of Porter learns that it will run out of funds in six weeks unless spring property tax draws arrive first.

Fired Porter Memorial Health System vice-president Sanjay Shah files lawsuit alleging Medicaid and Medicare fraud and a physician-referral scheme. Hospital board member William Back resigns, bringing the number of open board seats to three. U.S. Census Bureau estimates town of Chesterton has grown 6.2 percent since 2000. County agrees that it can no longer ignore state juvenile debt of $2.2 million. Neighbors seek Porter Town Council action on mosquitoes. Delinquent sewer customers in Burns Harbor get a reprieve. Splash Down Dunes seek public input on five-year expansion plan.

County Finance Committee meets for the first time. Carl Paul Ihle Jr. seeks a continuance of his trial in the Coffee Creek case. Chesterton resident Tom Shumate talks about his volunteer work at Peru orphanage. Four months later than usual, state finalizes property tax rates; rates will go down throughout much of Duneland but increase elsewhere in Porter County. CWC Art Show’s Popular Choice Award is a tie between Dee Jamison and Susan Kue. Porter Town Council President Jennifer Granat tries to head off rumors of possible job losses in town government. Chesterton Town Council approves sidewalk work and proposes pay increases for police officers.

Commissioners split 2-1 to remove Robert Parks of Chesterton from the Porter Memorial Hospital Board, replacing him with Portage Township Schools Director of Business Affairs David White while reappointing hospital board member James Spanopolous. Porter approves an ordinance giving police more power to curb alcohol abuses at the annual midnight parade. Michael Nava of Jackson Township is sentenced to 18 months in prison in a first test of Zachary’s Law requiring convicted sex offenders to register with the state. Army Spec. Wayne Clendenin of Chesterton is named Grand Marshal for the July 4 parade.

July

The trial of Carl Paul Ihle Jr., facing five federal counts in connection with the cover-up of the kickback scheme which greased the sale of 55 acres at Coffee Creek Center to the Northwest Indiana Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Fund Trust, is continued to Sept. 7. The Board of Trustees of Porter Memorial Hospital changes the name of the 65-year-old county-owned health system to “Porter”: the main hospital becomes “Porter Valparaiso Hospital Campus,” the PMH Board becomes the “Porter Board,” and Ron Winger becomes “Porter President and CEO.” Attendance at this year’s July 4 Midnight Parade in Porter is down, due possibly to the threat of rain or to the new policy which bans open containers of alcoholic beverages on streets or sidewalks.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Fund Trust retains Kirkland & Ellis, a top litigating law firm, in an effort to recover “losses” in connection with its purchase of 55 acres at Coffee Creek Center, in a deal which resulted in four federal indictments and three guilty pleas. After splitting 2-1 to enact an ordinance which requires 20 percent open space in subdivisions of 30 acres or more, the Porter County Commissioners retain a consultant to revise the ordinance and set a deadline of Sept. 7 for the completion of that revision. The Porter County Commissioners approve the request of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to contract with a California firm to serve as the county’s bad-check collection agent.

Chicago public radio station WBEZ/WBEW announces plans to establish a bureau in Chesterton and assign two full-time staffers to broadcast and record news of Duneland, Porter County, and Northwest Indiana. Porter resident Ryan E. Haas, 24, dies in a motorcycle crash at the intersection of Indian Boundary Road and North Calumet Road in Chesterton. The Porter County Drug Task Force seizes 14 pounds of high-grade marijuana with a street value of $70,000, in the county’s largest ever high-grade pot bust.

The City of Gary petitions the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to purchase the site of NIPSCO’s Dean H. Mitchell Generating Station, to use in the future expansion of the Gary/Chicago International Airport, while in a separate filing NIPSCO indicates that it has no plans to restart the facility, closed since December 2001. The bandstand in Thomas Centennial Park, one of the few remaining original bandstands in the state, celebrates its 80th anniversary. A Republican caucus elects Jim Ton to the 1st District seat on the Chesterton Town Council, vacated by the resignation of John Kosmatka earlier in the summer.

The Porter Stormwater Management Board informs the Town Council that the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System or MS4 program will cost at least $3,469 per year to implement and will likely cost much more. The Chesterton Town Council instructs department heads to calculate a 2.5 percent raise for town employees in 2005, rather than the $1,000 across-the-board raises of previous years. Portage Township resident Matthew R. Guy, 24, dies in motorcycle crash at intersection of 14th Street and West Indiana Ave. in Chesterton.

1999 CHS graduate Craig D. Boshart, 23, dies in two-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 6 in LaPorte County. The Porter County Fair celebrates the centennial anniversary of 4-H in the State of Indiana. The Chesterton BZA approves a use variance to allow Duneland Pet Store to open at 112. S. 12th St., the former location of Jim’s Lawn & Garden Shop.

The South Shore Industrial Safety Overpass opens, to replace the grade crossing at the U.S. Steel Midwest facility where three people died in June 1998 after a South Shore commuter train struck a steel hauler. U.S. Steel Corporation reports a record net income of $211 million in the second quarter. GFWC Chesterton Woman’s club receives a third place national award for fundraising in the 2003-04 club year and honorable mention for its projects.

The State Board of Accounts audit of the Town of Porter for years 2000-03 reports numerous problems, including missing public records, the lack of a required town inventory, and no timely action on delinquent sewer bills. The Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management launch parallel investigations into the Town of Porter’s pumping of stormwater and sewage into a pond at U.S. Highway 20 and Oak Hill Road during a heavy rain on July 22. International Steel Group reports a net income of $94.1 million in the second quarter.

August

Arson is blamed for a fire which destroys a home on U.S. Highway 6 in Liberty Township. Ryerson Tull Inc. acquires J&F Steel Corporation, a steel processor headquartered in Burns Harbor, in a deal valued at $55.3 million. At a 2005 budget workshop, Town of Burns Harbor officials describe a scenario in which the municipal tax rate could drop from 70 cents to 12 cents yet not raise enough revenues to fund basic services.

The Duneland School Board hires Merrillville elementary school principal David Templin as new CHS assistant principal to replace Barb Spencer, who resigned in July. The Porter County Commissioners enact an ordinance which requires all waste haulers which do business in the county to offer curbside recycling, beginning in February 2005. The 46th annual Chesterton Art Fair is held at Hawthorne Park in Porter.

After years of declining revenues and referrals, the court-ordered treatment provided by the Porter County Alcohol and Drug Offender Service is taken over by the not-for-profit Prisoners and Community Together. Laurie Franke-Polz resigns from the executive directorship of the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce to pursue other career ambitions. The Chesterton Town Council raises the monthly garbage fee, assessed on the bimonthly utility bill, by 50 cents.

Chesterton Town Council President Bob Crone, R-3rd, resigns after buying a house in the 2nd District. Property reassessment is expected to cut the payments which International Steel Group committed to make to local government units when it acquired Bethlehem Steel Corporation in May 2003. The Porter Town Council removes Member Paul Childress, R-4th, as liaison to the Public Works Department and Stormwater Management Board.

Porter County Executive Deputy Auditor Sheila Riley announces that property-tax appeals could result in budget shortfalls this year and next for some local government units. A sanitary sewer force main buried under concrete on the approach to the bridge over Coffee Creek on Indian Boundary Road springs a leak. Owner Tracey Frye puts the Rainboutique at 302 Lincoln St. in Porter up for sale.

The Porter County Council votes 4-3 to keep next year’s funding for Porter-Starke Services at its 2004 level, even though Porter-Starke was entitled to the same percentage increase allowed all other public entities. The Duneland School Board unanimously authorizes the final design and bid preparations to renovate the vacant east wing of Chesterton Middle School for the corporation’s administrative offices and a new alternative school for students removed from other classes. Michigan City resident James A. Kelley pleads guilty to causing death while operating while intoxicated, in connection with the crash in May 2003 which killed Porter resident and Portage Police dispatcher Tracey Hall.

John Swanson, former deputy director of the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, is hired as executive director of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to replace James Ranfranz, who resigned in January. Lakeshore Festival and Events Inc. (LFE) disinvites Munchkins Jerry Maren and Karl Slover from the 2004 Wizard of Oz Festival after a contract dispute with their agent, Ralph Zellem. The LFE Board of Directors rejects the application of Neighbors Opposing NIPSCO’s Odorization Station for a float in the Oz Parade and a booth at the festival.

Liberty Township resident and CHS student Robert Kendall, 17, dies after being struck by a pickup truck while riding his bicycle at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and Ind. 149 in Liberty Township. The Chesterton Town Council unanimously votes to make the intersection of 11th Street and C.R. 1050N a four-way stop. The first-day enrollment of the Duneland School Corporation jumps by 61.

Daniel Gavito resigns from the Porter hospital board. The ninth annual Taste of Porter is held in Hawthorne Park, at which Sigrid Anderson is named Porter Citizen of the Year. The Porter County Council votes 6-1 to grant across-the-board raises of $4,258 to Porter County Sheriff’s Police officers.

September

A semi tractor-tanker overturns on U.S. Highway 20 in Porter and spills 10,000 pounds of hot liquid tar, but the rapid response of firefighters and volunteers prevents the contamination of the Little Calumet River. The Porter County Park Board eyes the acquisition of two parcels, both contiguous to Chesterton, one east of the town and one south. A Republican caucus is canceled after no candidate emerges for the 3rd District seat on the council vacated by the resignation of Bob Crone.

The Porter County Commission-ers unanimously enact a revised open space ordinance, under which developers in the unincorporated county must set aside 10 percent to 20 percent of the total acreage of a development for open space, depending on the property’s environmental features. Tests detect lower than expected arsenic levels in the treated wood of playground equipment at Dunes Friendship Land. The Make-A-Wish Foundation announces that it will send Samantha Keiser, 7, Lockland, Nev., to the 2004 Wizard of Oz Festival.

Jackson Elementary School is one of only 147 schools in the state given a Four-Star rating by the Indiana Department of Education for its student testing scores and its attendance rates. The Porter Town Council unanimously votes to reduce 2004 budget appropriations by $234,300. The Northwest Indiana Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Fund Trust files an amended civil suit, which names Peter Manous, Kevin Pastrick, Carl Paul Ihle Jr., Debbie Nannenga, and James Bohlen, and which seeks to recover its $10 million investment in Coffee Creek Center; Gerry Nannega, a pension fund trustee, was the only person named in the original suit.

Ralph Zellem, the agent of Munchkins Jerry Maren and Mickey Carroll, announces that his clients will appear at the 2004 Wizard of Oz Festival but not as official guests. CHS Trojan Guard band places third in season opener at the Pirate Treasures of Sight and Sound Band Invitational in Merrillville. The Duneland United Churches Resale Shop’s new location at 534 Broadway in Chesterton is dedicated.

Carl Paul Ihle Jr., the only one of four persons not to plead guilty after being indicted in the kickback and cover-up scheme which greased the sale of 55 acres in Coffee Creek Center to the Northwest Indiana Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Fund Trust, is found guilty of five counts of lying to federal investigators. The Lake Erie Land Company seeks to sell the Sand Creek County Club to members. CHS seniors Melissa Dittman and Kyle Huber are named National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists.

Chris Fischer is named the new executive director of the Duneland YMCA. The 23rd annual Wizard of Oz Festival is held. CHS students Casey Martin and Katrina Dradziad are named Homecoming King and Queen. The Chesterton Town Council unanimously appoints Det. Lt. Dave Cincoski of the Chesterton Police Department, a Republican, to the 3rd District seat on the council vacated by the resignation of Bob Crone.

The Department of Natural Resources awards the Town of Chesterton a $150,000 grant to develop and build Phase I of the Westchester-Liberty Trail, which when completed will link Dogwood Park to the Coffee Creek Watershed via C.R. 1100N. The Porter County Council grants a 10-year tax abatement to Family Express Corporation for a new distribution center in Morgan Township. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cites NIPSCO for improvements at four coal-fired generating stations between 1985 and 1995, including the Bailly Generating Station, without obtaining the proper permits and without installing additional pollution controls; the EPA indicates that it will refer the case to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution.

The Porter hospital board unanimously approves President and CEO Ron Winger’s amended contract, which provides for a raise in his base pay of $85,000, after it neglected to do so at a meeting in February 2003 when it re-adjourned from a recess and forgot that the contract was still on the table awaiting a vote.

October

The Chesterton License Branch of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles wins the Tree of Life Award for signing up the most organ donors in Region 1 in 2003, and a purple plum tree is planted at Dogwood Park to honor the community. Federal transportation officials approve the Town of Porter’s request to commence the final engineering and construction of the final 2.8 miles of the proposed 3.2 mile multi-use trail, after the Redevelopment Commission seeks to phase the project when it is unable to reach consensus on the route of the first 0.4 miles of the trail.

CHS seniors Melissa Dittman and Hallie Orgel are recipients of the National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Award in Writing. The Porter County Commissioners approve a contract with Advanced Correctional Healthcare of Peoria, Ill., to provide physician care and all medications at the Porter County Jail for $135,000 per year. NIPSCO projects this winter’s natural-gas bills to be comparable to last winter’s.

A federal jury convicts Michigan City resident Nasih Ra’id of murder in the slayings of Kay Peckat and Chandler Simpson during the botched robbery of the Pines Branch of the First State Bank of Porter in August 2002. USWA Local 6787 breaks ground on a 24,500-square foot banquet hall immediately north and west of its union hall at 1100 N. Ind. 149. The Porter County Park Board agrees to purchase 130 acres located east of Ind. 49 and between I-94 and U.S. Highway 20 in Westchester Township for a new park.

Fairhaven Baptist Church announces the construction of a 58,000-square foot multi-use recreational facility. NIPSCO announces that it will re-advertise for bids for the purchase of additional electricity, to meet new standards for reliability proposed by two organizations which monitor electric transmission systems. Porter County Senior Judge Raymond Kickbush dismisses a lawsuit against Porter Beach property owner Suzanne Schoenfelt and the Porter BZA filed by two neighbors in connection with the issuance of building permits to Schoenfelt in 2003.

Arnell Chevrolet donates a 2004 Chevrolet Impala to the Burns Harbor Police Department. Bonnie Trout is named the new executive director of the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce. Karen Spallina resigns from the presidency of Lakeshore Festival & Events Inc. The Porter County Plan Commission voted 5-4 to adopt a revised open space ordinance unanimously approved by the Commissioners in September.

The Chesterton Utility Service Board endorses a two-phase sewer rate hike of 5.8 percent in 2005 and 5.0 percent in 2006. The Porter County Commissioners name former Valparaiso mayor David Butterfield and bank executive Richard Wathen to the Porter hospital board. Paul Childress, owner of the Splash Down Dunes water park, proposes an $11 million expansion which would include the construction of a 120,000-square foot indoor aquatic park west of Waverly Road and north of U.S. Highway 20.

Verizon Communication hits the Porter County 911 system with a steep fee increase which could double the monthly fee from approximately $12,000 to $24,000. The CHS Debate Team begins its defense of its state championship title with a win at the Munster High School Tournament. Michigan City resident Eric Thaler, 15, dies in a two vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 20 in The Pines.

The Mittal Steel Company, to be formed by the merger of Ispat International and LNM Holdings, announces the acquisition of International Steel Group in a deal valued at $4.5 billion; the combination would create by far the largest steelmaker in the world. NIPSCO flips and now warns of heating bills this winter 10 percent to 15 percent higher than last winter. U.S. Steel Corporation reports another record net income of $354 million in the third quarter.

International Steel Group reports a net income of $256.4 million in the third quarter. The Porter County Council votes 4-3 to boost the pay scales in the county’s planning and building department. Zella Olson, Angel Gochee-Goins, Alice Garba, Patricia Scott, and Ruth Osann receives the President’s Volunteer Service Award for their work at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The Board of Directors of NiSource names Robert Skaggs Jr. company president and appoints him and Chair and CEO Gary Neale to the new Office of Chairman.

November

Porter County voters split the ticket, but Democrats take control of county government: in the Porter County Commissioners races, Democrat challenger Carole Knoblock defeats Republican incumbent Dave Burrus for the South County seat and Republican incumbent John Evans defeats Democrat challenger Jack Clem for the North County seat; in the Porter County Council races, Republicans James Burge and incumbent William Carmichael and Democrat Dan Whitten win the three at-large seats; in the Porter County Treasurer race, Republican James Murphy beats Democrat Jim Kopp; in the Porter County Surveyor race, Democrat Kevin Breitzke beats Republican Harvey Nix; in the Duneland School Board race, incumbent Janice Custer defeats challenger Terry Maple; and in the most significant of three constitutional amendments on the ballot, Hoosiers vote Yes to permit the General Assembly to declare certain forms of property, most notably homes and inventory, exempt from taxation.

Todd Webb is named the new property manager at Indiana Dunes State Park to replace Ted Bohman, who assumes the same duties at Pokagon State Park. Peter Manous, former head of the Indiana Democrat Party, is sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and a fine of $200,000 for his role in the kickback and cover-up scheme which greased the sale of 55 acres in Coffee Creek Center to the Northwest Indiana Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Fund Trust. Former Chesterton luminary Dick Smith dies at his home in Albuquerque, NM, at 94.

The Lakeshore Café and Family Restaurant closes at the request of the Porter County Health Department after five confirmed salmonella cases are linked to the eatery. The Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitor Commission agrees to purchase from the Lake Erie Land Company 3.4 acres located in the area of Ind. 49 and U.S. Highway 20 for $350,000, as the site of the proposed new visitor center; the deal is contingent on Lake Erie Land’s installing infrastructure on the site. The Town of Porter’s former law firm, Spangler Jennings & Dougherty, sends its old client a second “final” bill of $6,000, after sending the town a first “final” bill of $9,472 in February.

The Porter County Plan Commission votes 7-1 to endorse a revised fee schedule for the building and planning department as part of an effort to make that department self-supporting. Longtime Burns Harbor Building Commissioner Gene Weibl resigns, after a new full-time work schedule leaves him no time to oversee the town’s building boom. Three employees of the Lakeshore Café and Family Restaurant test positive for salmonella.

The Westchester Public Library Board votes unanimously to pursue a lease with the Duneland School Corporation to move the Westchester Historical Museum to the Brown Mansion, to restore next year the former service hours at the Thomas Branch, and to suspend that portion of its meeting-room policy which bans “religious services” in library buildings. Michigan City resident James Kelley is sentenced to 10 years in prison, after pleading guilty to causing death while operating intoxicated, in connection with the crash which killed Porter resident and Portage Police dispatcher Tracey Hall in May 2003.

Dunelanders contribute $3,500 to Ade for Our Duneland Military Heroes, a fundraising effort to send powdered Gatorade and other treats to U.S. troops in Iraq. Arson is blamed for a fire which causes $30,000 in damage to a home on East Oak Hill Road in Porter. Lakeshore Café and Family Restaurant re-opens, following an outbreak of 16 confirmed salmonella cases linked to the eatery, after the establishment is sanitized under the supervision of the Porter County Health Department and employees complete a five-hour food handling course.

The Duneland School Corporation (DSC) and International Steel Group dispute the amount which the steelmaker owes under a 2003 agreement; DSC says around $6 million, ISG says around $1.9 million. State Rep. Ralph Ayres, R-Chesterton, is given the plum position of vice-chair on the House Ways and Means Committee, after Republicans take control of the State House in the general election. The Porter County Commissioners vote unanimously to destroy the former County Home.

The Porter Plan Commission schedules a public hearing on the petition of Paul Childress, owner of Splash Down Dunes water park, for a re-zone which would allow him to build an $11 million expansion, including a 130,000-square foot indoor aquatic complex, west of Waverly Road and north of U.S. Highway 20. Porter hospital announces plans to refinance existing debt as part of a $43 million bond issue. Porter Police Chief John Lane resigns, effective immediately.

The Porter hospital board approves a 7.5 percent hike in rates for 2005. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission trims a 10 percent rate increase requested by Indiana-American Water Company to 0.4 percent. Washington Township resident Angela Jones, 20, and Valparaiso resident Christopher Johnson, 29, are killed when their vehicle is struck by an Amtrak train at a grade crossing in Jackson Township.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Dale Engquist is awarded the Polish Cavalry Cross of Merit by the Republic of Poland for his efforts to manage natural protected sites. The Chesterton Town Council unanimously votes to approve a two-phase sewer rate hike of 5.8 percent in 2005 and 5.0 percent in 2006. The Porter Town Council votes to reject the Police Commission’s request to establish a merit commission safety board and instead to expand the existing Police Commission from three members to five and to add a non-voting ex officio member to a sixth seat.

WiseWay Foods officially confirms the closure early next year of the old grocery at 801 Broadway in Chesterton, when the new grocery opens at the intersection of Ind. 49 and C.R. 1100N. Property reassessment is estimated to lower International Steel Group’s “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” from $8.01 million in 2003 to $3.8 million and from $8.1 million in 2004 to $3.7 million, although some local government units dispute those figures.

Seven Valparaiso High School students are injured when a fellow student attacks them in a classroom with machete and pruning saw. The Northwest Indiana Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Fund Trust petitions a federal judge to reconsider the sentence imposed on Peter Manous, who was not required to repay the pension fund trust any of the money which it says it lost in the deal with the Lake Erie Land Company. The Burns Harbor Town Council unanimously votes to grant Ryerson Tull Inc. a three-year tax abatement for all new and relocated processing equipment to be installed at its operation in town, the former J&F Steel Corporation.

December

Arson is blamed for a fire which destroys a vacant farmhouse on C.R. 125W in Liberty Township. Officials pitch Northwest Indiana as the ideal site for the headquarters of Mittal Steel Company’s combined U.S. operations, after its merger with International Steel Group is completed next year. The Porter County Park Board unanimously votes to offer $118,000 for three acres of privately owned property on the south side of Sunset Hill Farm Park.

The CHS Music Department holds the 32nd annual Madrigal Dinner. Chesterton Tribune reporter Kevin Nevers wins first place in the Best General Columnist category in the Hoosier State Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, Division III. The Duneland School Board reports a 98.24 percent turnout rate for parent-teacher conferences.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission orders a 5.01 percent cut in Indiana-American Water Company’s rate for its Northwest Indiana customers, including Dunelanders. Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, urges the Porter County Council to repeal the county economic development income tax. CHS juniors Katie Stahura and Tess Mullin are selected to participate in the Richard G. Lugar Symposium for Tomorrow’s Leaders at the University of Indianapolis.

The United Steelworkers of America crafts a prescription drug card plan for retirees to be funded with a portion of the estimated $160 million which International Steel Group has contributed this year to the benefit trust, created by the collective bargaining agreement to provide some health care coverage to retirees who lost theirs in ISG’s acquisition of bankrupt steelmakers. The Burns Harbor Town Council tables a proposed ban on the discharge of firearms in town after a lively public hearing.

Harvest Homes appears before the Porter County Plan Commission for a concept review of the first development which would be built under the county’s new open space ordinance: a project proposed for 39 acres in Center Township and on paper exceeding the requirements of that ordinance by better than 50 percent. The Duneland School Foundation awards more than $8,500 in grants for a variety of projects in 2005. The Indiana Department of Education reports the results of ISTEP: all Duneland grades but the third grade at Liberty Elementary School exceed state averages.

Before it will close on the deal, the Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitor Commission insists on the Lake Erie Land Company’s guarantee that it will install infrastructure on a parcel approved for purchase by the PCCRVC for a new visitor center. A federal judge sentences Nasih Ra’id to death for the murders of Kay Peckat and Chandler Simpson during a botched robbery of the Pines Branch of the First State Bank of Porter in August 2003. Porter-Starke Services Inc. seeks to cut services associated with its intensive outpatient program at the Porter County Jail.

Chesterton Plan Commission Member George Stone resigns from his appointment to the BZA, and the commission unanimously votes to appoint planner Fred Owen to Stone’s seat on the BZA. The Porter Police Commission recommends Det. Sgt. James Spanier for the position of Chief of Police. The Westchester Public Library Board approves the hiring of 15 new clerks and names three managers and two assistants in advance of expanded service hours effective Jan. 10.

International Steel Group announces the re-start of the 110-inch plate mill at ISG-Burns Harbor, idle for more than four years. The first snow storm of the season hits Duneland less than a week before Christmas. The Chesterton Utility Service Board unanimously votes to purchase the old United Tractor facility at 116 N. 15th St. for $375,000.

A Democratic caucus elects Porter Township resident Laura Blaney to the vacancy on the Porter County Council created by the election of Carole Knoblock to the South County seat on the Porter County Commissioners. Michigan City resident Nicole M. Healy, 25, dies of injuries sustained when she is ejected from her pickup in a one-vehicle accident on U.S. Highway 20 in Porter. Former Pine Township Trustee William Theis is charged with one count of conflict of interest while in office.

 

Posted 12/31/2004