Chesterton Tribune

Elka Nelson vs. Trevin Fowler for Porter Town Council seat

Back to Front Page
 

 

 
 

 

 

By PAULENE POPARAD

Incumbent Republican Trevin Fowler is being challenged by Democrat Elka Nelson for the Ward 4 seat on the Porter Town Council.

A regional account manager for a logistics company, Fowler cites his experience in Porter town government since 2008 and pledges continued support for major projects initiated during his service.

Nelson, a lawyer and real estate broker who currently serves as a Town Council appointee to the Porter Board of Zoning Appeals, sees a need to restore open, accountable government for Porter’s citizens.

Below are the candidates’ responses to a Chesterton Tribune questionnaire.

 

Click or scroll down for

ELKA NELSON

 

TREVIN FOWLER

Age: 39

Years lived in town: 6 years

What qualifications/experience do you have that makes you the best candidate for your office? I have served on the Porter Redevelopment Commission since 2008. I have supported and helped champion projects designed to promote the planned economic development of our town including the Gateway Sub-Area Plan and the Brickyard development. I have served on the Town Council since August, 2010 and currently serve as its president. I am dedicated to the progress and planned economic development of Porter, making me the very best candidate to continue moving forward.

If elected, what three projects, changes or policies would you like to see implemented for Porter? 1) The Gateway Project: I will enthusiastically support this development along Highway 49 leading into the Dunes State Park. This development will diversify and strengthen our tax base, lower residents’ taxes, increase town revenue, foster jobs and stabilize our local economy. 2) The Brickyard: I support the project inasmuch as it represents an opportunity to plan, develop and expand our historic downtown area, and it will help improve and infill the downtown’s only remaining land by supporting residences, an assisted living center and a new fire station. The Town is now perfectly positioned to take the lead in remediating any environment concerns tied to the property while providing oversight and direction to any private developer(s). 3) Hawthorne Park: I look forward to supporting its vibrant development. With the advance of the Gateway Project and Porter’s trail development, I believe the historic park’s planned enhancement is extremely important to the Town’s future.

Should Town Council members be eligible to receive health insurance coverage for themselves and their families on the Town’s employee policy? State statute allows municipalities to provide health insurance benefits to all elected officials. Although I do not participate in the benefit program, I am in support of all those that do. I would stand aggressively against any change that would take health benefits away from any elected official, including our current Clerk-treasurer, Carol Pomeroy, or any Town Council member eligible for health insurance coverage.

To what extent should the town assist developers (such as purchase land, give tax abatement, install infrastructure, fund feasibility studies) when implementing the Gateway plan? I feel strongly that the future stabilization and economic growth of our Town hinges on planned development. I enthusiastically support the Town’s involvement. The Town must have oversight to help control who comes into our Town and what is developed. As such, where appropriate, I believe the Town should assist developers in tax abatements, installation of infrastructure, and even land acquisition and feasibility studies. This type of action demonstrates commitment to progress and attracts the right type of developer. Over 3 million visitors are coming into, through, or around our Town every year. Porter must consciously oversee and assist, where possible, in the planned development of the Gateway project.

Should Porter designate land within the Gateway project boundaries as a tax-increment financing or TIF district, reserving future property taxes on new development there for the Town alone? The land currently designated for the Gateway Development generates approximately $5,400 in annual property tax to the Town. When the project is completed, the property tax and potential tax-increment financing (TIF) revenue is estimated to be over $1.9 million annually. I absolutely support and endorse this development and establishment of a TIF for this property because it means our Town’s income stream will be diversified and our residents will realize lower taxes.

How would you proceed regarding the 32-acre Brickyard redevelopment project? There never has been any question that the Brickyard would need municipal assistance to be remediated and developed. After all, it was a brickyard. The Town bought the property at a small fraction of its appraised value and I still consider it great investment on the Town’s behalf as it represents the only remaining land available for development within the confines of our historic downtown area. I have supported and championed this property’s acquisition. Working in the capacity of a wise steward and overseer of it, the Town can seek the appropriate approvals, grants and support for the remediation that is required to move this project forward. When completed, the Brickyard will shine with numerous new downtown residences, a new fire station, and an assisted living center for our loyal senior residents.

It has been Town policy to have the Porter building commissioner be a member of the Porter Plan Commission. In addition to a base salary, the building commissioner also is paid 10% of the building permit fees collected; these quarterly checks totaled $4,972 in 2010 and $3,025 as of Oct. 5 of this year. By voting yes on any petition (subdivision, PUD) that will result in the issuance of one or more building permits, isn’t that a conflict of interest since the building commissioner will benefit financially from his/her vote? There is absolutely a conflict of interest in our current town policy to seat our Building Commissioner on the Plan Commission. I am committed to reviewing this situation thoroughly and taking action to compensate our Building Commissioner appropriately while removing any conflict that would put in question the ethical nature of a qualified individual sitting on our Plan Commission.

What will be your main priority as a member of the Porter Town Council? My main priority for the next four years is to ensure basic services are sustained for residents (roads are paved, trails completed, toilets flush and water runs) while continuing to champion the planned development of our Gateway and Brickyard projects to keep moving the Town of Porter forward.

 

 

ELKA NELSON

Age: 51

Years lived in town: 13+

What qualifications/experience do you have that makes you the best candidate for your office? 25 years of legal, business and real estate experience have provided me with a great respect for the fiduciary duty one has toward those who place their trust and confidence in them. I have a strong commitment to providing full disclosure and accountability at all times. Although I am running as a Democratic candidate, I also have maintained the support of many long-time Republicans in the Town of Porter. I have no business affiliations or political mentors, ties or commitments to any organizations or individuals, other than my fellow citizens of the Town of Porter.

If elected, what three projects, changes or policies would you like to see implemented for Porter? I will encourage a complete review and possible revision of the Porter Town Code. It currently contains many ambiguous, unclear, antiquated provisions, some of which directly conflict with State Law. I will communicate with the diverse citizen groups to take full advantage of their knowledge of historical facts and then use reasonable due diligence before making any decisions with respect to future development. I will retain competent, qualified individuals as advisors before moving forward with any development. The Brickyard environmental fiasco is a prime example of the costly results of incompetent, hasty decision making with total disregard for public input. I will foster a policy of responsive, respectful, reliable Town services from all town boards, departments and council members. Porter citizens come first, not individual interests or agendas. Rebuilding the confidence and trust of the Citizens of Porter is vital.

Should Town Council members be eligible to receive health insurance coverage for themselves and their families on the Town’s employee policy? Council members should be required to pay at their own expense, without any contribution from the Town whatsoever, any health insurance coverage they receive under the Town’s employee policy. To make it clear, I promise that I will not accept any payment from the Town for health insurance benefits.

To what extent should the Town assist developers (such as land purchase, give tax abatement, install infrastructure, fund feasibility studies) when implementing the Gateway plan?

See below.

Should Porter designate land within the Gateway project boundaries as a tax-increment financing or TIF district, reserving future property taxes on new development there for the Town alone? TIF districts should be expanded only after careful consideration before we deprive police, fire, parks, schools and libraries of funds. Potential developers should be required to provide well-documented, accurate feasibility studies, at their own expense, showing both the potential likelihood of success and full and complete disclosure of development beneficiaries prior to creating a TIF district. The Town should negotiate to provide the least amount of assistance as possible. If a private developer is not willing to invest in the project to the greatest extent possible, history has proven that the project may not be a good investment. The nation recently has suffered greatly from consequences of developers being permitted to proceed with little investment of their own. Just ask the banks how that worked out for them.

How would you proceed regarding the 32-acre Brickyard redevelopment project? As the (Porter Redevelopment Commission) has kept much of the Brickyard information under wraps, it is difficult to provide an informed answer. I would take a very proactive approach. To pretend a report doesn’t exist, paid for with Town funds and readily available to the public on the Indiana Department of Environmental Management website, is irresponsible. Environmental matters should be left to the experts, not to unlicensed Town staff and board members with no proficiency and no expertise in such matters. I would engage the representation of an environmental attorney letting them become acquainted with the property and studies, and obtain their guidance on the best strategies for dealing with IDEM. Until the full nature, extent and cost of contamination is determined along with its potential impact on development, future plans are just pipe dreams. As a representative of the Town, there is duty to reality, not fantasy.

It has been Town policy to have the Porter building commissioner be a member of the Porter Plan Commission. In addition to a base salary, the building commissioner also is paid 10% of the building permit fees collected; these quarterly checks totaled $4,972 in 2010 and $3,025 as of Oct. 5 this year. By voting yes on any petition (subdivision, PUD) that will result in the issuance of one or more building permits, isn’t that a conflict of interest since the building commissioner will benefit financially from his/her vote? For the record, I disfavor any system that provides compensation based on the number or value of permits issued. I favor a system where permits are only required for new construction, major replacement and repairs and structural improvements. It is both unreasonable and absurd that the current ordinance requires permits for any work over $500.00 which may often encompass painting, staining of decks, carpeting, fixture replacement and other ordinary maintenance items. It is not only a conflict of interest when a building inspector who stands to earn 10% of the fees from every building permit issued sits on the Plan Commission, it may also be a violation of current Indiana law. Based on my understanding, a recent modification to Indiana law clearly prohibits an individual from participating in a matter where they have a direct or indirect financial interest.

What will be your main priority as a member of the Porter Town Council? My first and main priority is and will continue to be gaining the confidence of the residents of the Town of Porter and to merit their trust by working together with them to return the Town of Porter to its Citizens.

 

 

Posted 10/26/2011