Chesterton Tribune



Council hopes to act on new County Park Board law next month

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The Porter County Council hopes to act on HB 1018, a new law that changes the way County Park Board members are appointed, next month.

At the Council’s meeting Tuesday, Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-Large, said the Council should think about what changes to make so there’s ample time for the transition.

The new law gives the Council the option to change the format of the Park Board by adding extra members and/or granting a new County official appointing authority over one of the seats. Counties that don’t want to change their boards have the option not to, but if the local county council doesn’t act by the end of the year, they lose their opportunity, and the board of commissioners may make the change.

The Porter County Park Board currently has six members--five appointed and one ex officio member representing the local Extension Office. Two members are appointed by Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper, two are appointed by the County Council, and one is appointed by the Commissioners.

The new law gives the Commissioners two appointments, leaves the Council at two appointments, and eliminates Harper’s authority. The County official given authority over the last seat cannot be a commissioner or council member.

Whitten said the Council should choose an elected official for whom it makes sense to appoint a park board member, and the Council should aim to do that at September’s meeting to give that new person ample time to vet applicants before the first of the year. “We want to give them as much time as we possibly can,” Whitten said, considering the holidays could slow the process.

Council member Bob Poparad, D-1st, asked what the new statute says about staggered terms for park board members. Council Attorney Harold Harper said he doesn’t think that is addressed.

Council Vice-president Jeff Larson, R-At-Large, said, for his part, that he thinks Judges “have a vested interest” in the park board and have the right connections to interested volunteers.

In other Parks business, the Board approved several additional appropriations for Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos.

Lenckos asked for approximately $14,400 to be appropriated out of the Department’s Land and Water Conservation Fund grant money for new benches, trash cans, and tables for the new Horton Children’s Center and plants and interpretive signage for the rain garden adjacent to it. He also requested $7,000 to cover program costs for the rest of the year and approximately $2,300 to contractual legal services for the Park Board Attorney’s work on some pending litigation that’s wrapping up soon.

Council member Greg Simms, D-3rd, brought up the recent Prairie Magic Music Festival at Sunset Hill Farm County Park after the vote: “That concert was unbelievably awesome.”

Lenckos reported the Festival may have set a record of more than 800 attendees, with 20 percent of ticketholders from Illinois. “It was an unbelievable spectacle to see people enjoying our parks. Really, it couldn’t have been run better,” Simms said. “Sometimes our parks go a little bit off the radar, and in this case, everyone needs to know how awesome it was.”


Posted 8/30/2019




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