Chesterton Tribune



County Parks works on 2017 budget; clinches more grants

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With camps, programs and field trips, life at the Porter County Parks and Recreation Department is getting busier by the day.

That is why Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos hopes to move the office coordinator position to full-time in 2017.

But it will not affect the County’s tax-levied general fund since the position, with a $30,000 yearly salary and a benefits package, can be sustained by the Parks’ non-reverting fund, Lenckos told the County Park Board at its meeting Wednesday.

Proposed budgets for 2017 are expected to be due to the County Council by July. The board decided to wait until next month before signing off on what Lenckos presented, in case the Council makes requests to departments on adjusting budgets as it did two years ago when they were asked to reduce totals by 10 percent.

“I’d say wait until next month to see what might be on the chopping block, or the increasing block. Who knows?” said board member Annetta Jones.

Lenckos said when he became superintendent six years ago the office coordinator position had moved to part time and set at 29 hours a week, but the person is now needed for 35-40 hours each week. “As we grow, our song has changed,” he said. Duties include keeping communication moving within the department, registrations and making sure vendors are paid, he said.

Costs for programming are growing in the budget but some items have decreased, Lenckos said, such as water utilities.

Board member Craig Kenworthy questioned the costs for programs like $4,000 budgeted for the 50k day event at Sunset Hill Farm. Lenckos explained that for those events, the parks require the event sponsors to submit a cost recovery sheet so as not to burden the parks department.

Board member Drew Armstrong commended Lenckos for the work preparing the budget.

“Thank you. This is critical. This is a really important junction for us,” Lenckos said.

More grants

In his staff report, Lenckos announced that yet more grants are coming in for projects at Sunset Hill Farm. Praxair doubled its grant of $5,000 to $10,000 for sensory plants for the garden at the natural children’s playground.

Another grant for $5,000 was given for the pond and prairie restoration project. Lenckos said the money will be used to remove more invasive species and replace them with native plantings.

Lenckos also said that the Valparaiso University Engineering Club has chosen to do a project for the playground. The club will be constructing a concrete canoe.

“It’s going to last a long time and will be a part of our park,” Lenckos said, who said the canoe will be fairly lightweight. “It’s not a racing canoe. It’s going to be used for jumping and playing on.”

The department received another grant from the National Association of Realtors. Last month, Lenckos announced the organization granted $2,500 for musical instruments at the playground. Now it will grant $15,000 for the constituents needs assessment for the updated parks master plan due later this year.

The parks department was not awarded a competitive grant from the Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program for the Hawk Ridge Natural Area in Pine Twp., Lenkcos said, but another grant opportunity is being sought from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Spring Out, camps, trails

In Sunset Hill Farms news, Spring Out to Sunset will be Saturday, May 21, Lenkcos said, with a host of activities for families from 12 to 4 p.m. The Sunset Hill Colonels Vintage Baseball Team will play a game at 1 p.m. The popular Homebrew Competition held with the event starts at 10 a.m. Admission is $5 per car.

Summer camp registrations are going strong this year and through the Porter County Parks Foundation, the camps will be offering free or reduced lunches for qualifying families, Lenckos said.

Trail improvements continue at Sunset Hill. Lenckos said the trails will be marked for wagons and pedestrians. This will help the Northern Indiana Historical Power Association which gives wagon rides at a few park events know where to travel without worrying about causing damage to the trails used by walkers and cross country teams, he said.

History of Baseball

Lenckos invited the board members to learn about the history of baseball in Porter County at the Porter County Museum on May 19 at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at Figure 8 Brewing in Valparaiso where proceeds go to the parks whenever diners buy a “Where Lizards Dare” beverage. Through June, the restaurant will donate 25 cents each time the drink is purchased.

Both events are open to the general public, Lenckos said.


On the agenda were discussions of the two lease agreements at Sunset Hill between the Park Board, the Parks Foundation and NIHPA. Those matters were tabled however as board attorney David Hollenbeck said he has been not been able to work on them due to the death of a relative. He said he intends to get the leases ready in the next few days.

In other matters, Lenckos said the Parks Foundation will soon have an updated logo. It will give the Foundation more distinction from the County Parks Department and reduce confusion, he said.

The department also received notice from NIPSCO that it will possibly be replacing an existing 22-inch pipeline with a 24-inch pipeline in its easement which crosses the former prison property owned by the department in Pine Twp. Work will not begin until the next year or so, but soil borings are expected soon.

Posted 5/6/2016





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