The Porter County
Park Board may need to prepare for higher water bills if a utilities deal
between Valparaiso City Utilities (VCU) and the Damon Run Conservancy
District deal goes through.
Park Board Attorney
David Hollenbeck reported at the Board’s Thursday meeting that if the
utilities infrastructure in the Damon Run Conservancy District is indeed
acquired by VCU, the Parks Department may see an increase in its water bill
for Sunset Hill Farm County Park, which is at Meridian Road and U.S. 6 in
VCU moved to
acquire the infrastructure at Damon Run and provide service last month, and
the Town of Chesterton promptly challenged the deal in a pair of causes
filed to the Indiana Utility Regularly Commission (IURC). The causes argue
the acquisition, and a recent Valpo City Council declaration that Valpo can
provide utilities within a 10-mile radius outside of its corporate limits,
would encroach on unincorporated territory that Chesterton claimed as part
of its service area in a 2014 regulatory ordinance.
Hollenbeck said the
Park Department now pays a couple hundred dollars a month to Indiana
American Water in a deal it has through Damon Run. Though the Park uses
minimal water, not much more than an average residence, Hollenbeck said, the
switch could impact costs.
“To the extent that
this raises our water bill, we may have to add a water charge to some of our
rentals in order to defray the costs,” Hollenbeck said. “It may become a
bigger overall cost for our facility.”
In other legal
business, Hollenbeck reported he’s working on two memoranda of understanding
(MOUs)--one between the Park Board and the Wildlife Management Board and one
between the Park Board and the Highway Department. Hollenbeck welcomed
feedback from the Board on the MOU with Wildlife Management and suggested
the Board discuss what it wants and what’s available in the agreement with
the Highway Department at its December meeting.
New Board Make-up
noted that the Porter County Council last month took its opportunity to
change appointing authority for the Park Board, an option it picked up from
a new law passed in the 2019 legislative session. The Council adopted an
ordinance changing the make-up of the Park Board to five members--two
appointed by the Council, two appointed by the Board of Commissioners, and
one appointed by the County Auditor.
Formerly only one
member was appointed by the Commissioners, two were appointed by the Circuit
Court Judge, two were appointed by the Council, and one member was
ex-officio from either the Extension office or the Soil and Water District.
The Auditor and Commissioners have 90 days from the adoption of the
ordinance to make appointments. Hollenbeck said its his legal opinion that
the current Board should remain in place until all new appointments are
Superintendent Walter Lenckos made a reminder that the Winter Lights
Festival is Saturday, Nov. 23 at 3 p.m. at Sunset Hill Park. Admission is $5
per car, and the event will feature photos with Santa and wagon rides in
addition to the lights.
Historical Power Association (NIHPA) will provide wagon rides as usual, and
NIHPA President Nick Misch reported they’re working on something new this
year--lighting the wagons and tractors. The Iliana Garden Railway Society
has put away its running trains for the season, but will have a table
display and a Christmas tree, and will light its crossing signal for the
The Board approved
Lenckos’ request to transfer $5,400 from maintenance to salaries. The
transfer is to fix a paperwork error that shorted the salary line item after
the Board dissolved one full-time salaried position and split it into two
part-time hourly positions in 2018. Lenckos worked with the County Auditor’s
office to make the fix.
Board member Drew
Armstrong asked if the transfer would short the maintenance line item.
Lenckos said it isn’t ideal, but the money is there because he and the staff
tend to leave some in the coffers for maintenance in case something comes up
at the end of the year.
a closing date on the Smith Property, a 35-acre parcel abutting Brincka-Cross
Gardens, for February. The acquisition will more than double the size of
authorized Lenckos to request the Commissioners create funds for money from
the Lake Michigan Coastal Program and Land and Water Conservation Fund
grants related to the acquisition. Lenckos also reported the Board will need
to approve a phase 1 environmental study for the property, estimated cost of
$5,000 to $6,000 within 90 days of closing. Lenckos said he’s working with
the Auditor’s office on possibly encumbering funds from this year to pay the
invoice next year.
Northwest Indiana Croquet Association is still in the process of fleshing
out its proposal for four championship croquet courts with public access at
Sunset Hill. The group’s attorney, Michael Sawyier, said Chesterton-based
Planned Environment Associates is working on phase 2 of the architectural
and engineering design for the courts.