Chesterton Tribune



Board OKs purchase for south county park, seeks hospital funds for barn activity center

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Thursday night’s Porter County Parks and Recreation Board meeting was a memorable one for Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos, with turning points for a new south county park and the Raise-the-Barn activity center.

The board voted 4-0 to allow Lenckos to make an offer to purchase a 55-acre piece of land southeast of the County Road 550 South and Ind. 49 intersection in Morgan Township for the price of $407,000.

The property is flat agricultural land now, but, if the deal is made, the parks department will progress with developing a new park which, according to preliminary discussions, will include fields for baseball/softball and soccer and trails for walking/jogging. No permanent decisions have been made yet. It is close to the site of what was the historic Tassinong Grove trading post, one of the oldest settlements in northern Indiana.

The two members absent Thursday were Craig Kenworthy and Ruth Jarnecke, both of whom reside in the southern half of the county.

In the meantime, a major piece of the funding puzzle for the Raise-the-Barn may be solved too. Lenckos said both the County Commissioners and the County Council have indicated to him they support spending $1.5 million of interest money from the sale of Porter Memorial Hospital toward the activity center at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.

The park board voted 4-0 for Lenckos to request the funding from both the Commissioners and the Council. Majority votes are required from both boards to spend the hospital interest money.

“Things are starting to all come together,” Lenckos said.

Board attorney David Hollenbeck said the $407,000 offered to purchase the south county park land is significantly less than what the department was willing to spend on the parcel -- $600,000. It was even less than the average of the two appraisals done, one which valued the land at $440,000 and the other at $426,250, which is what Indiana law prescribes the purchase should be.

The property owner’s identity is the Dorothy L. Anderson trust, Hollenbeck said.

Board member Rebecca Tomerlin said the Land Acquisition and Development Committee recommended the purchase at its meeting two weeks ago.

“We all agreed this is an excellent property,” Tomerlin said.

Knowing he would be unable to attend the meeting, County Councilman Jim Polarek, R-4th, phoned the Tribune earlier Thursday to say he would like to thank the Anderson family for allowing their property to be purchased by the parks department.

“It’s going to help the kids,” Polarek said.

He also lauded the efforts of former County Commissioner Carole Knoblock and her successor County Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South.

Blaney had announced at this week’s county commissioner meeting that the deal was moving forward now that the parks department had in its budget CEDIT money earmarked for land acquisitions.

“The park is long overdue. It will give the south county residents a place to gather with friends and family for fitness and fun,” Blaney had said.

Longtime parks supporters Charlotte and Herb Read told the board they would like to see the county parks department continue searching for areas that could be acquired and developed for passive recreation.

Herb Read asked that a master plan be developed for the new south county park with various alternatives for the public to give input on.

Board member David Canright said the board will not ask for input yet since the land purchase is still under negotiation.

Raise the Barn plans updated

Board members got to view a new draft of what the inside of the Raise-the-Barn will look like from Vavrek Architects. The plans now show about 1,400 sq. ft. to be added for the inclusion of the County’s Recycling and Waste Reduction District offices.

The additional space will not greatly alter the roughly $3 million price tag as it will mainly consist of only a few walls, floor and a roof extension.

An updated building cost estimate is expected within the next month, Lenckos said.

County officials have wanted to move the offices along with the County Extension office to Sunset Hill Farm to free up needed space in the county administration building. The Extension office has not been included in the new Raise-the-Barn center plans as it recently has begun negotiations to relocate to the county fairgrounds, Extension educator and park board member Annetta Jones said.

Lenckos will request $1.5 million in hospital sale funds from the Commissioners at their April 16 meeting. The request will then go to the County Council for appropriation.

Camp FUNset sign ups April 13

Get signed up while there is still a chance, Lenckos said about the spots open for Camp FUNset this summer. Open registration will be Saturday, April 13 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Sunset Hill Farm.

The camp is open to children entering grades 1-7. The dates for the camps run from June 10 to Aug. 2.

In other items:

* Lenckos introduced Charmayne Guch who will be the department’s new part-time marketing and events coordinator. She will also assist in the office, taking over for Shirley Massey who resigned this past month. Massey will still lead her painting classes offered by the department.

* Union Twp. resident Bill Pauley and Parks Planner Ray Joseph have begun to put up signs around the trails of Sunset Hill Farm with GPS capabilities. If someone has an emergency in the park and dials 911, they can better give dispatchers their location by referring to where they are in proximity to the signs. Pauley said he is talking with local municipalities about putting up more signs and will present a PowerPoint at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10, at the Porter County Administration Building.

* A new septic system will be installed at the house in Brookdale Park. The board voted 4-0 to accept a bid of $8,820 from Gift Septic Service of Wanatah.

* Lenckos said there will be a volunteer clean-up effort led by the Kiwanis Club at Brincka-Cross Gardens. The work will start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 13 and more volunteers are welcome.

* The annual Spring Out to Sunset event will be on May 18 at 10 a.m., Lenckos said. Admission is $5 per car.




Posted 4/5/2013






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