Chesterton Tribune



County pressured to fix drainage; Chesterton to refund $14,000

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A group of residents from South Haven implored Porter County officials to remediate flooding conditions in their community last August. On Tuesday residents from Wheeler and Pleasant Twp. made a plea for some help at the County Commissioner’s meeting.

But County Drainage Board President David Burrus warned fixing these problems won’t be a quick or low-cost process.

The persistent rains over the last two to three weeks has put the drainage board on high alert as land close by the Kankakee River has seen washouts, with the river close to peaking at Dunn’s Bridge County Park and the Shelby area in the next few days.

“There’s no system we have that could handle it,” Burrus said.

Pleasant Twp. resident Rob Stewart who resides close to roads CR 950 South and CR 500 East said there is over 1,000 acres of farmland underwater currently and asked that the County look at clearing ditches to get the water moving down the road.

Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, who is a member of the Drainage Board, said he was out inspecting the drain with other board members and said the problem he saw was that “people are plugging things” into the drain. He said no-till farming has also contributed to the woes as corn stalks have clogged outlets.

The drainage board will help work towards the solution, possibly widening one of the ditches, but where the problem is located is on a private drain, Good added, and said residents need to share in the responsibility of protecting the lands. He acknowledged however that this is “a very unnatural circumstance.”

Meanwhile, Wheeler resident Anna Taylor, whose property on State St. sits on an open ditch which she said is flooding due to two clogged culverts, asserted the problems could be taken care of if the County would remove the debris.

Burrus advised that action would not fix the situation and the drainage board is considering eight different recommendations for improvements and will need to determine which option would “be the best combination for the most people.”

Taylor pressed about having the culvert cleared, but Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, advised that the best course of action would be to follow the engineering study.

He assured Taylor and other neighbors that the drainage board knows of their concerns and is working toward improvements, putting faith in Burrus’ leadership.

“We are going to get you some relief. It might not be overnight. It’s going to take some time,” Evans said.

Burrus advised that whatever the County does, “it would take a king’s ransom, millions and millions of dollars” to fix all the drainage issues, as illustrated in the comprehensive drainage study done in 2010.

Chesterton refund

In other business, the Commissioners voted 3-0 to approve a proposed amendment to the County’s contract with the Town of Chesterton for the sanitary sewer upgrades to provide service to properties in unincorporated Liberty Twp., south of the Indiana 49 Toll Road entrance.

Chesterton Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann said that looking at the agreement from 2012, what wasn’t included was that the Town would provide the County’s unincorporated area of the corridor with 204,000 gallons of water per day.

Lukmann said he checked with County Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson who corroborated that would be the correct capacity for that area.

With “slight embarrassment,” Lukmann said it was also discovered by Chesterton that the figure agreed to by the County in 2012 -- $740,409 -- exceeded what should have been the true amount.

The Town wishes to reimburse the County at $14,086.50, Lukmann said and hopes to get the amount approved at the next Town Council meeting.

Longevity pay

County employees will likely see their first installment of longevity pay this year as the Commissioners voted 3-0 to use $176,000 of unallocated county income tax dollars, as well as $19,712 for PERF and $13,464 for FICA insurance.

Longevity pay is awarded to workers who have been employed by the County for three or more years.

Until two years ago, the County paid longevity with funds received from the state’s casino funds but the fund has since dwindled to the point where CEDIT funds have been tapped instead. County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said the County has yet to receive its share of casino funds this year and those may go toward the fall longevity installment.

Now that the Commissioners have approved the CEDIT amounts, it will go to the County Council for a vote.

In other business:

-- The HVAC equipment replacement project at the Courthouse, County Administration building and the Jail was awarded to Mechanical Concepts of Gary who submitted a bid of $491,000.

-- The Commissioners agreed 3-0 on a letter of agreement with Porter Regional Hospital with this year’s new County employee health plan. Evans said he counted “36 or 37 different changes, all of which are a benefit to (the County).”

-- A second reading to establish a fund to hold fees collected for animal control services from municipalities was approved 3-0. Urbanik said the fund is ready to receive funds with half going to the Sheriff’s Department and the other half going to the Animal Shelter. The County is currently negotiating rates with cities and towns.


Posted 6/17/2015




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