Chesterton Tribune

Steel industry crisis looms as 2000 comes to an end

Back to Front Page
 

 

 
 

 

Year in Review

Analysis

By KEVIN NEVERS

The biggest story of 2000 may not be written until 2001, when and if the gathering storm clouds burst.

It's about Duneland's tax base, the school corporation's backbone, Porter County's largest employer. It's about Bethlehem Steel Corporation and its slide toward the abyss. Not long into the new year, rumors of imminent bankruptcy or a hostile acquisition began to ripple through the company. Those rumors could get traction because they made sense, after five consecutive quarters of net losses totaling $207 million. In the first half of 2000 that trend was reversed, barely. But the third quarter saw yet another net loss, this one of $35 million.

Meanwhile, Bethlehem stock has lost 80 percent of its value, the 110 inch plate mill at Burns Harbor Division was idled, and the slab facility there was closed permanently. At a teleconference which accompanied the release of the third quarter report, industry analysts wanted to know what company officials intended to do to save Bethlehem. Their answer was a tepid one: stay the course. Paul Gipson, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 6787, has made this dire prediction: of Bethlehem, National, LTV, and Birmingham, two are very likely not long for this world.

What the impact of the loss of Bethlehem might mean to Duneland became a little clearer just this month, when Burns Harbor Division filed an amended tax return which claimed a reduction in the assessed valuation of its personal property of almost $100 million. Westchester Township Assessor Candy Crone has estimated that a reduction of that magnitude could deprive such taxing bodies as the Duneland School Corporation, Porter County, and the Town of Burns Harbor of a total revenue of $6 million to $7 million, a shortfall which would fall squarely on the shoulders of every other property taxpayer.

Economic Development

The fate of Bethlehem, accordingly, lends a certain urgency to the efforts made in 2000 by entities both public and private to expand the tax base. Gary Neale of NiSource Inc. and Jerry Mobley of the Lake Erie Land Company have long advocated the need to lure light industry to Duneland. To date Coffee Creek Center has attracted only the Steel Family Health Care Center and the Hilton Garden Inn, both of which broke ground this year. Each will generate jobs. Each will also generate substantial revenues for the Town of Chesterton's tax increment financing district--finalized in May--as will the new Jewel-Osco complex, which broke ground as well in 2000. But neither is the sort of cornerstone venture which would freshen the tax base of Chesterton or high-tech headquarters which could plug the brain drain in the region.

Thus the announcement by Natural Ovens Bakery of Manitowoc, Wis., of its plans to build an $8 million plant in Valparaiso--and the subsequent report of an appointment made, then broken, with Lake Erie Land, to which neither elected officials nor business leaders were invited--caused a certain amount of consternation among members of the Chesterton Town Council. The upshot: an economic development summit sponsored by the Duneland Economic Development Company. Another has been scheduled for 2001.

Whether Chesterton residents even want economic development is an open question, however. The results of a survey conducted this summer by the DEDC reveal not only their desire for more retail and better choice but also the fear of a deterioration in the quality of their lives. A fear, that is, of increased congestion on Duneland's already clogged roadways.

Traffic

Traffic was never far from anyone's mind this year in Chesterton. Police Chief George Nelson continued his quixotic attempt to obtain some crumb of satisfaction from the LaPorte District of INDOT, while the district continued in its dilatory and obfuscating ways. At the moment, according to the district's project schedule, bids will not be let on the construction of a non-grade interchange at Ind. 49 and Indian Boundary Road until July 15, 2007. The district did re-pave Ind. 49 this summer. And this fall.

On the upside, Lake Erie Land began construction of Rail Road along the abandoned Wabash Railroad right-of-way, an underpass which should relieve some of the pressure on Ind. 49.

Duneland's roadways were as dangerous as ever. At least 11 people died in seven accidents, two of them triple fatals. And three school buses--two of them Duneland school buses--were involved in separate accidents on U.S. Highway 6.

Dull and Otherwise

In an election year marked by the passions of a presidential contest, the races in Porter County seemed in contrast lethargic. In the only contested primaries of interest, Republicans Karen Conover, Bill Carmichael, and John Ruge were the top vote-getters for the three at-large seats on the County Council, while Porter County Coroner and Republican John Evans beat Robert Walstra--who had by that time withdrawn his name--for the seat of North County Commissioner.

The general election also had a bit of the ho-hum to it, although heavy turnout on Election Day itself and exceedingly late returns made for something like excitement. Conover, Carmichael, and Ruge swept. State Reps. Ralph Ayres, R-Chesterton, and Duane Cheney, D-Portage, and Duneland School Board Member Janice Custer waltzed easily to re-election. Evans trounced Democrat Jack Clem. And Democrat Dave Burrus squeaked by Republican Brian Gesse for the seat of South County Commissioner.

For a good soap opera, on the other hand, one couldn't have done better than the saga of the Porter Memorial Hospital and its Board of Trustees. Early in the year the County Commissioners created an ad hoc Research and Advisory Committee to review PMH operations. Its conclusions were harsh: among them, the hospital puts profits before the community and the trustees have "detached and insular attitudes."

One of the trustees, Dr. Chen Sun, had already announced his resignation from the board. But another, Eugene Kopczak doggedly sought re-appointment. County Commissioners Gesse and Jim Biggs, R-North, shot him down. They also accepted the resignations of Suzanne Perkins and Harley Snyder. All four were eventually replaced.

Meanwhile, PMHS braced itself for a $9 million loss in 2001 and announced an increase in the rate of surgeries of 8 percent. But the hospital had enough to offer CEO Wiley Carr, who announced his resignation as well, a golden parachute worth around $1.5 million over two years.

CHS

Chesterton High School closed its doors in June, to re-open them at a spanking new facility in August. But the Trogems, Winter Guard, and Winter Percussion Ensemble made the last academic year at the old CHS a memorable one, when on the same weekend in March they all garnered state titles. For its part the debate team won its eleventh state title and its ninth in 12 years, while Golden Gator Jenni Anderson successfully defended her titles in the 50 Free and 100 Back at the IHSAA tournament in March

Fall at the new CHS proved equally exciting, as the girls' soccer team clawed and fought its way to the state championship match, only to lose it to powerhouse Carmel. The Trojans played superb football as well and won their first DAC title since 1971, although they quickly lost their sectional opener to East Chicago Central.

Duneland Superintendent Ken Payne retired, to be replaced by H. Steven Hewlett, who decided to suspend the random drug testing policy at CHS after the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled a similar program in Howard County to be unconstitutional.

Murder

A Tippecanoe County jury deliberated less than three hours before convicting Westchester Township resident David Malinski of the murder of Center Township resident Lorraine Kirkley. Porter County Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford later sentenced Malinski to the maximum term possible: 155 years. He's serving it just up the road in Michigan City. But Reggion Slater has yet to face his trial for the murder of 1999 CHS graduate Kathryn Pokorny. Bradford has continued it twice, most recently to July 23, almost exactly two years after Pokorny was shot to death during a robbery of the Marathon where she was working.

The Town of Porter saw murder twice this year. Richard Pinkerton was shot to death as he answered his door bell one night in May; Christopher Matson is charged with that murder and is set to stand trial March 19. And David Wahoske was shot to death in his kitchen as he was making a strawberry pie on a morning in October; his killer remains at large.

The New Millennium

The biggest story in 1999 was the biggest non-story in 2000: Y2K.

And at 12 a.m. Monday the purists can at last celebrate, as the Third Millennium truly begins.

January

Bethlehem Steel Corporation revises its stockholders' rights plan to lower the threshold at which its poison pill mechanism activates. The Porter County Commissioners agree to conduct a study of Porter Memorial Health System. Porter County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Douglas withdraws his request to seek the death penalty against Westchester Township resident David Malinski, charged with the murder of Center Township resident Lorraine Kirkley.

The Chesterton Police Department conducts its second climate survey in five years. The first update in 17 years begins of Porter County's comprehensive land use plan, thoroughfare plan, and master park plan. The State Board of Tax Commissioners grants the Town of Chesterton an excess levy of $213,838 to hire three new firefighters.

The Town of Chesterton wins a $9,700 Urban Forestry Grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The LaPorte District of the Indiana Department of Transportation rejects the request of the Town of Burns Harbor for a traffic signal at the intersection of Ind. 149 and U.S. Highway 12. Officer Matt Edwards of the CPD is named 1999 Officer of the Year.

Chesterton High School senior Juli Marie Williams is awarded a Wells Scholarship at IU Bloomington. CHS Golden Gators win their first Duneland Athletic Conference title in 15 years. A Highland motorist dies when his vehicle collides with the gatehouse at Indiana Dunes State Park.

PMHS announces that it closed 1999 with an operating income of $518,000, significantly less than the $8.7 million which it originally projected. The Chesterton Utility Service Board approves the creation of one sewer district for the Lake Erie Land Company and the expansion of an existing one. The Chesterton Town Council approves improvements at the intersection of South Calumet Road and C.R. 1100N, including the installation of a pork chop and the prohibition of left turns.

The Chesterton Fire Department announces a record number of calls in 1999: 635, 19 more than in 1998. Bethlehem Steel Corporation announces a net loss of $37 million or 37 cents per diluted common share for the fourth quarter of 1999. The CPD is awarded a $9,999 grant by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute for the purchase of a van to be converted into a mobile communications center.

Prosecutors in the murder trial of David Malinski present in their opening statement Polaroid photographs of a bound, gagged, and partially nude Lorraine Kirkley. The CHS boys' swim team wins its fourth consecutive DAC title. The Duneland Chamber of Commerce names Rick Hokanson Citizen of the Year and Sue Edds succeeds Neal Mortensen as president of the Chamber.

February

The Town of Burns Harbor begins the process of establishing a tax increment financing district. Bethlehem Steel announces a workforce reduction of more than 500 employees or 15 percent corporate-wide by Jan. 31, 2001. Bill Smriga announces his resignation as executive director of the Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitors Commission.

Bethlehem Steel Burns Harbor Division announces plans to construct a primary health care facility in the Fourth Addition to Coffee Creek Center. The Porter County Community Foundation pledges $10,000 toward the purchase of 20 acres in Morgan Township for the creation of a new county park. The CHS boys' basketball team defeats Merrillville 56-52 in its last game at Goldsborough Gym.

The CHS Golden Gators win the sectional title and break three sectional records. The CHS debate team wins its 11th state title and ninth in the last 12 years. The Duneland School Board votes to adopt a $93,000 wireless remote security system at the new CHS.

A Tippecanoe County jury deliberates two hours and 10 minutes before finding David Malinski guilty of the the murder of Lorraine Kirkley, two counts of burglary, and one each of criminal confinement, criminal deviate conduct, auto theft, and arson. The CHS girls' basketball team beats Griffith 44-37 in its last game at Goldsborough Gym. Rumors ripple through Bethlehem Steel Burns Harbor Division of an imminent Chapter 11 consolidation or hostile acquisition.

CHS students Sarah Penrose and Adam Wagner named co-champion soloists in the show choir competition in Mt. Zion, Ill. The CHS Golden Gators finish sixth at the IHSAA state tournament and Jenni Anderson successfully defends her titles in the 50 Free and 100 Back. The State Board of Tax Commissioners disburses $213,838 in the excess levy granted the Town of Chesterton among a number of departments and leaves the CFD only enough money to hire one new firefighter.

The Chesterton Town Council votes 4-1 to restore the flashing red light at the intersection of Broadway and Calumet Road to full capability after residents voice concerns about pedestrian safety. The CHS Trogems finish their two-year stay at Bailly Elementary School undefeated by beating Portage. The climate survey of the CPD reveals morale to be high but points to a lack of communication.

Chesterton resident Ron Chango is named the new president of Bethlehem Steel Burns Harbor Division, succeeeding Walt Bargeron. The CHS boys' swim team wins the sectional title at LaPorte. Lake Erie Land resurrects plans for a constructed wetland sewage treatment facility at Coffee Creek Center.

The CHS boys' swim team finishes seventh at the IHSAA state tournament. Columbia Energy Group, a natural gas distribution and pipeline company headquartered in Herndon, Va., agrees to its acquisition by NiSource Inc. in a deal worth $6 billion.

March

William B. Mullin, retired Duneland teacher and Chesterton Town Council member, dies at 92. The Kathryn Pokorny Memorial Scholarship, named for the 1999 CHS graduate murdered in August 1999 during a robbery of the Marathon at U.S. Highway 6 and Meridian Road, is created with the $10,000 award offered by Luke Oil Company, owner of the station. The Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau proposes a merger with the PCCRVC.

Billy Jean Donovan and her son Joseph, both of Porter, and Anthony Dovichi of Chesterton are killed when their car is struck by a tractor-trailer at the intersection of Ind. 49 and Indian Boundary Road. The CHS Trogems win the sectional title. The Porter County Commissioners give the ad hoc Research and Advisory Committee 60 days to review PMHS operations and governance and make recommendations.

The Burns Harbor Town Council finalizes a TIF district. SkyeNet acquires Northwest Indiana Internet Access. The CHS Trogems finish second at the Valparaiso regional. The CPD and Indiana State Police determine the cause of the triple fatal accident at the intersection of Ind. 49 and Indian Boundary Road to have been Billy Jean Donovan's illegal left turn at a red light.

The Chesterton Stormwater Management Board floats an $885,000 bond issue to finance a package of four drainage projects. Porter County Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford sentences David Malinski to 155 years in prison for the murder of Lorraine Kirkley and six other crimes. The PMH Board of Trustees pronounce the hospital to be in sound financial condition, an assessment which the Advisory and Research Committee will review.

The CHS Trogems, Winter Guard, and Winter Percussion Ensemble all win state titles in the same weekend. The Duneland School Board approves re-naming the old Chesterton High School Chesterton Middle School. The CHS Singing Sands is named a Gold Medal publication by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association for the fourth consecutive year.

CHS teachers Hilda Demuth-Lutze and David Keammerer win $7,500 Teacher Creativity Fellowships from Lilly Endowment Inc. CHS student Megan Smith is one of 12 winners nationwide of the Hoops and Heroes essay contest sponsored by Indiana-American Water Company. The Beverly Shores Town Council votes 3-2 to accept the proposal of the Humane Society of the United States to begin a three-year deer contraception study in the summer and to identify those deer which could be culled with little impact to the study.

Robert Kirkley, husband of murder victim Lorraine Kirkley, files a civil lawsuit against convicted murderer David Malinski and his wife Kelley which seeks, among other things, damages from the Malinskis and 90 percent of any proceeds from the sale of their story to the media. St. Anne of the Dunes Catholic Church celebrates its 50th anniversary.

April

NiSource Inc. announces a decrease in net income of $21.7 million or 17 cents per share in 1999, with a decrease in earnings per share of 31 cents or 19 percent. More than 600 firefighters from Indiana and across the Midwest attend the 10th annual Duneland School of Emergency Response, hosted as always by the CFD. NICTD awards $2.7 million contract to Superior Construction Company of Gary to replace two South Shore bridges, one at Burns Waterway in Portage and the other at Bethlehem Steel Burns Harbor Division.

Porter County Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford continues to Oct. 23 the trial of Reggion Slater, charged with the murder of Kathryn Pokorny. Peter Drescher is named executive director of the PCCRVC. Gov. Frank O'Bannon appoints Porter Town Attorney Bob Kennedy to the bench in Porter County Superior Court 4.

A deer cull in the Town of Dune Acres nets 19 deer in eight days. the Porter Town Council votes 3-2 to award Signature Graphics a 10-year tax abatement on real property and a 10-year abatement on personal property. Alexandra Newman is named Community Editor at the Chesterton Tribune.

Liberty Township resident Bonnie Berg dies in a fire at her home in Elmwood Trailer Park. Porter County Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford orders Coroner John Evans to issue a death certificate for murder victim Lorraine Kirkley, whose body has never been found. The Chesterton Police Commission authorizes the purchase of a van, at a cost of $12,500, for conversion into a mobile communications center.

Porter County Superior Court Judge Julia Jent fines trucker Keith Lintz of Niles, Mich., $4,035 for overloading the steel hauler involved in the fatal collision with a South Shore train in 1998. The Duneland School Board names Westchester Middle School Principal Jim Ton the principal of Chesterton Middle School. Bethlehem Steel announces a net income of $3 million in the first quarter of 2000.

The Town of Chesterton receives its fourth consecutive Tree City U.S.A. title. CHS student Craig Hyatte receives the Eagle Scout award. The Porter County Council authorizes Sheriff Dave Reynolds to pursue a contract for long-term use of the new jail for housing federal prisoners. More than 400 people participate in Christmas in April in Duneland.

May

NiSource Inc. announces plans to install the first full-scale test unit of a residential fuel cell energy package in a residential home at Coffee Creek Center. Lake Erie Land announces plans for a 125-room Hilton Garden Inn in the First Addition to Coffee Creek Center. NiSource Inc. announces the sale of $1 billion in non-core businesses to raise cash to pay for its acquisition of Columbia Energy Group.

CHS student Megan Smith is named the winner of a $2,000 National Merit Scholarship. Karen Conover, Bill Carmichael, and John Ruge are the top vote-getters in the Republican primary race for the three at-large seats on the Porter County Council. Porter County Coroner John Evans wins the Republican primary for the seat of North County Commissioner.

The PCCRVC awards $43,793 Challenge Grant for a BMX track under construction in Portage. Commercial diver Matthew Worczek of Lockport, Ill., dies after being sucked into an intake pipe in Lake Michigan while performing maintenance for Bethlehem Steel Burns Harbor Division. CHS student Matthew Gregoline wins Wells Scholarship at IU Bloomington.

The Chesterton Redevelopment Commission finalizes the TIF district. The Chesterton Police Commission demotes Sgt. Jamie Nale of the CPD to officer first class for failing to respond to a report of an underage drinking party. The CHS girls' track teams finishes second at the DAC championship.

CHS student Melissa Buford, editor-in-chief of Sandscript, wins the W.R. Canright Outstanding Senior Journalist Award. The CHS boys' track team finishes third at the DAC championship. Bailly Elementary School student Kristin Kalita wins the fifth grade essay contest sponsored by the Indiana Troopers Association.

CHS students Megan Smith, Bryan Cooley, Jessica Squires, and Rachel Mariani are the winners of the first awards of the Kathryn Pokorny Memorial Scholarship. The CHS girls' track team defeats Michigan City and wins the sectional title. Lifelong Chesterton resident Marvin Dille dies at 90. Lake Erie Land proposes to build a 34.6 acres industrial park between Ind. 49 and U.S. Highway 20 in Porter.

The PMH Board of Trustees forms a nominating committee to submit names to the Porter County Commissioners for appointment to the two seats held by Eugene Kopczak and Dr. Chen Sun, the former of whom seeks re-appointment, the latter of whom announces his retirement. Lifelong Chesterton resident Alvin C. Slont Sr. dies at 70. Bethlehem Steel wins the General Motors Supplier of the Year Award for the fifth consecutive year.

Joe Ello is named King of the Year in bowling for the third time. The CHS boys' track team finishes eighth at the Valparaiso regional and only Steve Vrska in the 3,200 meter run, qualifies for state. Richard Pinkerton, Porter resident and owner and president of P&P Pinkerton, is shot to death when he answers the door bell at his home.

CHS Mathletes win the Chesterton Invitational Tournament. CHS debate and speech teams wins the Founders Award of Excellence in Speech at the Catholic Grand National Tournament in Rochester, N.Y., for the second time in three years.

June

Lifelong Chesterton resident Melvin Weidman dies at 99. CHS students Nick Bachman and Carolyn Chase are named Male and Female Athletes of the Year at the Spring Sports Award Night. Students and faculty bid farewell to the old Chesterton High School.

The Research and Advisory Committee reports that PMH suffers from a severe public relations problem caused in part by nepotism, that its trustees have "detached and insular attitudes," and that it puts profits before the community. Duneland School Corporation Director of Media and Technology John Corso announces his retirement after 33 years of service. High fuel costs take a bite out of county budgets.

The price of Bethlehem Steel common stock continues its downward trend. Porter County Commissioner Brian Gesse, R-South, joins Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, in annoucing his opposition to the re-appointment of Eugene Kopczak to the PMH Board of Trustees. Christopher Matson is arrested in Prescott, Ariz., in connection with the murder of Richard Pinkerton.

Chesterton resident Betsy Bobel is crowned Miss Indiana. Duneland School Superintendent Ken Payne bids farewell to the Duneland School Board and wishes well his successor, Steve Hewlett. Margaret Larson's memoirs go on sale at the Westchester Township Historical Museum.

PMHS releases its response to the Research and Advisory Committee's report and agrees to change the executive bonus plan, to support term limits on the Board of Trustees, and to meet annually with the Porter County Commissioners. PMH Trustee Suzanne Perkins and Harley Snyder offer their resignations, while Trustee Eugene Kopczak ends his tenure by ripping into his critics and Porter County Commissioner Brian Gesse in particular. The South Shore Board of Directors approves $3.6 million in consulting contracts to study the modernization of the line.

Porter resident Jerry Newsome Jr, Valparaiso resident Demaso Albanice, and Hammond resident Melissa Philmont die in a head-on collision on U.S. Highway 6 in Liberty Township. A Chicago resident dies in a four vehicle accident on the Indiana Toll Road in Liberty Township and Jackson Township resident Ernest Mazurkiewicz tests positive for alcohol after crossing the median and hitting the Chicagoan's vehicle at the Portage Toll Plaza. Lake Erie Land begins construction of Rail Road, under Ind. 49, along the abandoned Wabash Railroad right-of-way.

July

The Porter County Commissioners appoint Chesterton resident and Democrat Robert Parks to the PMH Board of Trustees. Christopher Matson is charged with the murder of Richard Pinkerton. State Rep. Ralph Ayres, R-Chesterton, secures the approval from INDOT of a comprehensive engineering study of the intersections of Ind. 49 at Porter Ave. and C.R. 1100N with a view to the installation of left-turn signals.

The Duneland Millennium Celebration Committee buries a time capsule at the Indiana Dunes State Park. Christopher Matson pleads not guilty to the murder of Richard Pinkerton and trial is set for Nov. 20. CHS student Stephanie Kendall is one of two Indiana girls to be selected to attend the annual Girls Nation in Chevy Chase, Md.

The Chesterton Town Council rejects the offer of AT&T Wireless to rent space at the planned new fire station for the construction of a wireless telecommunications tower. The Porter County Commissioners appoint Valparaiso resident and Republican James Spanopoulos to the PMH Board of Trustees. Women in Leadership awards $1,500 Seagull Scholarships to Katherine Hurley and Rose Hoffman.

The Duneland School Board names Randall Eckley to be director of media and technology for the Duneland School Corporation. Valparaiso resident Joshua Cohen dies when his car is struck by a CSX train on C.R. 200W in Liberty Township. The Porter County Commissioners agree to accept two new appointments to the PMH Board of Trustees to replace Suzanne Perkins and Harley Snyder.

PMHS considers cost-cutting moves to brace itself for a $9 million loss in 2001. Westchester Township resident Herb Read is named Ted Falls Memorial Environmentalist of the Year by the Indiana Division of the Izaak Walton League of America. Texas Christian University golfer Stephen Polanski wins the Northern Amateur Tournament at Sand Creek Country Club.

Porter resident Rachel Stevens is named Queen of the Porter County Fair. Bethlehem Steel announces a net income of $10 million in the second quarter of 2000 but a loss per share of 1 cent. U.S. Steel and National Steel announce plans to join Bethlehem Steel Burns Harbor Division in the construction of the Steel Family Health Care Center at Coffee Creek Center.

The Duneland Chamber of Commerce presents the Senior Service Award to Margaret Doyle and the Athena Award to Westchester Township Trustee Suzanne Philbrick. Gov. Frank O'Bannon's office awards the PCCRVC a $500,000 grant for the construction of a new visitor's center. The Porter County Relay for Life raises $156,709 for the American Cancer Society.

August

Ground breaks on the first project at Coffee Creek Center, the Steel Family Health Care Center in the Fourth Addition. A tree-killing storm turns hundreds of trees in Chesterton into kindling. Jackson Township resident Jesse Lively dies in a one vehicle accident on Greening Road in Jackson Township.

Main Street releases the preliminary results of a survey conducted by the Duneland Economic Development Company on the attitudes and preferences of Chesterton residents and shoppers: more retail is wanted and less traffic. The Duneland School Board votes 3-2 to hire Peter Morikis as assistant superintendent of the Duneland School Corporation. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore sends crew of 19 National Park Service employees to fight wildfires at Bitterroot National Forest in Montana.

The CHS girls' volleyball team christens the new gym with a win over Hammond Morton. Work begins on lowering the hill on Meridian Road north of C.R. 700N. Academic year 2000-01 begins at the new CHS.

Dr. Brian Solmos dies in a helicopter crash near Ind. 2 and U.S. Highway 30 two miles from Porter County Municipal Airport. The Duneland School Board opts not to change the current drug-testing policy for CHS students after learning five of the 188 randomly tested during the previous academic year tested positive for marijuana and four of those five for nicotine. Duneland Superintendent Steve Hewlett makes the decision to suspend the drug-testing policy at CHS after the Indiana Court of Appeals rules the Howard County school corporation's similar policy to be unconstitutional.

The CHS Trojans christen the new stadium with a win over Northridge. Bethlehem Steel Burns Harbor Division idles the 110 inch plate mill. The Northern Indiana Public Service Company warns of steep price hikes in the cost of natural gas in the winter as a result of temporary imbalances in the market. Oak Tree Village and Burns Harbor Estates mobile home parks agree to pay a fine of $765,000 for dumping untreated sewage into tributaries of the Little Calumet River. Construction begins on the new Jewel-Osco complex at the intersection of Indian Boundary Road and Ind. 49.

September

Porter resident Alice Wesson dies from injuries sustained in two vehicle accident at Division Road and Ind. 2. Work continues on a natural gas pipeline which runs across Meridian Road in Liberty Township as it makes its way from Dawn, Ontario, to Joliet, Ill. In its 1999 audit the State Board of Accounts faults PMHS for poor bookkeeping and non-compliance with state laws and guidelines.

The new CHS is dedicated. Jean Nelson, founder of the Oz Festival, announces the sale of the Yellow Brick Road Shop. The Chesterton Town Council rejects a proposed connection of the Prairie Duneland Trail and Calumet Trail, planned by the Town of Porter, by means of a North Jackson Blvd. link. CHS students Sara Baughman, Megan Bergauff, Alex Bishop, Erika Brownlee, Marissa Flaxbart, Steven Hodge, Stephanie Kendall, and David Odefey are named National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists.

The Porter Town Council votes 3-1 to give each council member a $500 raise in 2001. The Oz Festival opens with the Munchkin Celebrity Family Picnic. Yost Elementary Principal Ken Miller, Bailly Elementary Principal Narcine Shep-Lohse, and Liberty Middle School Principal Fonda Rhea announce their retirements at the end of the academic year.

Lawrence Lee Swanson, former pastor for 17 years of Augsburg Lutheran Church in Porter, dies at 78. Bethlehem Steel opens a new cold sheet mill at its Sparrows Point, Md., division. The PMH Board of Trustees approves a rate hike of 8 percent for surgeries.

A Duneland school bus collides with a tractor-trailer at U.S. Highway 6 and Meridian Road. A deadline set by the Beverly Shores Town Council expires for the secural of a scientific study permit from the DNR for a deer contraception study by the Humane Society of the U.S. The CHS Trojans defeat Portage in football for the first time since 1992.

The Porter Town Council agrees not to construct a connection of the Prairie Duneland Trail and Calumet Trail by means of a link through any portion of the Town of Chesterton. The LaPorte District of INDOT schedules bids for a non-grade interchange at the intersection of Ind. 49 and Indian Boundary Road to be let July 15, 2007. Jane Walsh-Brown, assistant director of the Westchester Public Library, celebrates 25 years of service to the WPL. A school bus transporting 32 East Chicago second-graders collides with a pickup at U.S. Highway 6 and Old 49.

October

Hobart hands the CHS Trojans their first defeat of the season. The CFD takes delivery of its new Class A pumper. The Duneland Working Women's Club names Jean Kohler Woman of the Year.

The CHS boys' cross country team finishes second at the DAC championship and CHS runner Steve Vrska has the best overall time, and the CHS girls' cross country team finishes second as well. The Chesterton Town Council votes 3-2 to reduce one component of the sewer tap-on fee by 50 percent, from $497.68 to $248.84. Jackson Township motorist Christy Franiak is critically injured in collision with Duneland school bus at U.S. Highway 6 and C.R. 400E.

The Dune Acres Town Council agrees to seek a permit for another deer cull. Natural Ovens Bakery of Manitowoc, Wis., flirts with Lake Erie Land, then announces its plans to locate an $8 million plant in Valparaiso. Porter resident David Wahoske is shot dead by an unknown assailant in the kitchen of his home.

NiSource Inc. cuts 800 jobs nationwide to reduce redundancies created by its acquisition of Columbia Energy Group. Dune Acres resident Margaret Doyle, winner of the 2000 Duneland Chamber of Commerce Senior Service Award, dies at 86. The CHS Trojans win their first DAC title since 1971 win a win over Merrillville.

The CHS boys' cross country team finishes second at the sectional tournament. The CHS girls' soccer team wins its first sectional title with a win over LaPorte. The CHS boys' soccer team loses the sectional title to Portage.

The Porter County Commissioners vote 2-1 to name Dr. William Kelley, a Jackson Township resident and Republican, and 3-0 to name Mary Beth Schultz, executive director of The Caring Place and a Democrat, to the PMH Board of Trustees. The CHS Trojans lose their football sectional opener to East Chicago Central. The CHS girls' soccer team advances to state with wins over Lake Central and Mishawaka Marian.

The CHS girls' cross country team finishes second and the boys' cross country team finishes third at the regional championship. The Porter County Council agrees to review cellular telephone use by county employees after Porter County Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, exceeds his maximum allotment. Bethlehem Steel announces a net loss of $35 million or 34 cents per diluted share in the third quarter of 2000.

Steel analysts ask Bethlehem Steel officials how they plan to save the company in a teleconference from which the media are excluded from asking questions. Porter County Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, announces his intention to reimburse the county for cell phone charges which exceed his maximum allotment, then decides not to repay after discovering those charges total more than $2,600.

The CHS girls' soccer team loses the state championship to Carmel after advancing with a win over Evansville Memorial. The CHS girls' cross country team finishes second the boys' cross country team finishes fourth in the semistate championship and both advance to state. Porter County Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford continues the trial of Reggion Slater, charged with the murder of Kathryn Pokorny, to July 23, 2001, while Porter County Superior Court Judge Thomas Webber continues trial of Christopher Matson, charged with the murder of Richard Pinkerton, to March 19.

November

PMH paramedic Robert M. Samanas dies at 52. Ground breaks on Hilton Garden Inn in First Addition to Coffee Creek Center. Eleven property owners file challenge to Town of Porter's 2001 proposed tax rate hike of 38 cents. The re-paving of Ind. 49, begun in the summer and continued at the contractor's convenience through the fall, is completed.

The CHS girls' cross country team finishes eighth at IHSAA state tournament and the boys' cross country team finishes 14th. The Porter Town Council defends a proposed tax rate hike by citing the need for additional sewage capacity at a cost of $300,000 to $400,000 and a new or renovated town hall at a cost of $750,000.

Heavy voter turnout and late returns mark Election Day: Republicans Karen Conover, Bill Carmichael, and John Ruge sweep the race for Porter County Council, State Rep. Ralph Ayres, R-Chesterton, and State Rep. Duane Cheney, D-Portage, win reelection, as does Duneland School Board Member Janice Custer; Democrat David Burrus and Republican John Evans win seats on the Porter County Commissioners.

Lifelong Chesterton resident Melvin C. Christopherson dies at 100. Bethlehem Steel announces plans permanently to close the slab mill at Burns Harbor Division and to cease ingot making operations there. The Chesterton Town Council leases the old New York Central passenger depot to the Duneland Chamber of Commerce. The Chesterton Town Council challenges the removal of guardrails, authorized by the LaPorte District of INDOT, from Ind. 49 north of Indian Boundary Road.

Porter Building Commissioner Donald "Doc" Whisler retires after five years in the position. Hunters take 91 deer in first phase of deer reduction program at Indiana Dunes State Park. PMHS announces the stablization of its finances and a doubling in patient satisfaction levels.

Liberty Township resident Bjorg Nelson dies in two vehicle accident at U.S. Highway 6 and Meridian Road. The delivery of auxiliary power units for 10 new South Shore cars is delayed indefinitely. Burns Harbor residents circulate a petition in support of Town Marshal Lawrence Shinneman and Street Commissioner Lonnie Penrose.

The Beverly Shores Town Council secures a permit from the DNR for a deer contraception study and votes 3-2 to cull up to 75 deer. The Chesterton Utility Service Board agrees to grant a sanitary sewer connection to the Chesterton Montessori School, located on unincorporated and unannexable property in Jackson Township. Burns Harbor Town Council President Cliff Keppen is ticketed for parking in a handicapped space in front of the town hall.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore obtains $1 million in additional funding, nearly enough to complete its outstanding land acquisitions. Porter-Starke Counseling Centers lay off 23 employees to offset year-end loss of $314,283 caused mainly by state funding cuts. John Bostick is picked by the Chesterton and Porter town councils to replace Helen Boothe as the Tri-Town representative on the PCCRVC.

Hunters take 11 deer in the final phase of the deer reduction program at Indiana Dunes State Park. PMHS President Wiley Carr announces his resignation and is given a gold parachute which includes two years of his $264,000 salary and memberships at the Sand Creek and Valparaiso country clubs.

December

The Humane Society of the U.S. appeals permit for a Beverly Shores deer contraception study issued by the DNR on the grounds that it is too restrictive. Porter County Commissioner Brian Gesse, R-Center, criticizes severance package of PMH President Wiley Carr. Chesterton resident Msgr. Ralph Hoffmann dies at 89.

Rev. Dr. Christoph Armiger retires from the pastorship of Bethlehem Lutheran Church after nearly 15 years there. Chesterton Tribune cub reporter Kevin Nevers wins first place for Best Ongoing News Coverage in the Better Newspaper Contest of the Hoosier State Press Association. The Porter County Council agrees to ask the State Board of Accounts to audit the cell phone records of Porter County Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-Chesterton. The Porter Fire Department takes delivery of its new Class A pumper.

The Save the Dunes Council backs the DNR in its issuance of a restrictive permit to the Humane Society of the United States for a Beverly Shores deer contraception study. Frequent and heavy snow falls mire Duneland and squeeze street department budgets. Cpl. Dave Cincoski of the CPD is named 2000 Officer of the Year.

Chesterton Police Commission Member Jim Ton announces decision not to seek re-appointment. Chesterton resident Georgiana E. Tierney dies at 101. The Duneland School Board names Mike Grubb principal of Bailly Elementary School.

Weather delays the completion of the covered bridge on the Calumet Trail. Westchester Township Assessor Candy Crone rejects a claimed $97 million deduction filed in an amended property tax return by Bethlehem Steel Burns Harbor Division. PMHS President Wiley Carr gets a lump sum severance payment of $933,307 in addition to a total two-year salary of $559,193. The PMH Board of Trustees approves a rate hike increase of 8 percent for 2001 while hospital employees get raises averaging 4 percent.

PMH leaves the Westchester Neighborhood Food Pantry off an original list for $14,000 in area food pantry donations because hospital officials did not know the Westchester Neighborhood Food Pantry exists. The Burns Harbor Town Council, amid cat calls,votes 4-1 not to re-appoint Town Marshal Larry Shinneman, Street Commissioner Lonnie Penrose, and Building Commissioner Gene Weibl. At a Republican party caucus, Roger Kleist of Morgan Township, was named to take over Jan. 1 as county coroner.

Posted: December 31, 2001