Chesterton Tribune



Dunes supporters speak out on tourism budget at County Council hearing

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The Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission’s support for Pavilion Partners’ plan for renovating the Indiana Dunes State Park Pavilion and proposed banquet center stirred a few community members to ask the County Council Monday to consider making changes to how the PCCRVC operates.

Last night was the first reading and public hearing for the proposed 2016 budgets where the public can give its two cents before the Council begins its hearings with each department. The first hearing is Wednesday at 5 p.m. starting with the 911 and County Jail budgets.

About a dozen residents, most of them from the Dunes Action grassroots group opposing Pavilion Partners, made comments and got behind a statement made by Dunes Action member and Chesterton resident Margaret Willis.

Willis said that over 5,000 people have signed petitions against the additional construction at the lakefront and 1,175 signed a petition submitted to the Porter County Alcohol Beverage Commission last week against the issuance of an alcohol permit to Pavilion Partners.

Willis said at the ABC meeting last week, it was mentioned that the PCCRVC was “instrumental” in the idea of having alcohol at the pavilion and lobbied lawmakers to pass legislation excusing it from the current alcohol ban at the state park.

“The fact that our tourism bureau, instead of reflecting the values of this county and the community adjacent to the lakefront, has worked to promote alcohol use at the beach and unwanted construction there, is a gross misuse of County taxes,” Willis read in her statement.

The statement also requested that the Council make a resolution against alcohol at the lakefront and to ban the distribution of tax-funded grants to private businesses given by the PCCRVC, giving them back to non-profit community groups holding festivals. Willis said she also would like the Council to consider cutting the innkeepers’ tax rate that funds the PCCRVC and to replace its current appointee to the PCCRVC board, attorney Mitch Peters.

Other speakers either seconded or echoed Willis’ comments. Some passed out to the Council Monday’s editorial commentary by Chesterton Tribune editor David Canright that advocates the Council put a halt to the PCCRVC’s spending of tax dollars against the public’s interest.

Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said he has received “many calls” regarding the issue but did not discuss the matter at length with the rest of his colleagues since Monday was only the public hearing.

The PCCRVC’s budget had been scheduled for Thursday but Whitten said he suggested moving it to a hearing next week since PCCRVC Executive Director Lorelei Weimer will be away at a conference.

The County Council’s office this morning said it has not been confirmed yet but the Tourism budget is expected to be bumped to Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, who has publicly spoken against Pavilion Partners, thanked the speakers for their comments.

Weimer told the Chesterton Tribune this morning by phone she was not able to attend Monday’s meeting as she was traveling to a conference and, not being there in person to hear what was said, declined to give comment.


Whitten said he expects this fall’s hearings to be difficult for the Council, just as they have been for the past three years with the effects of the state tax caps.

The Council will need to shave about $5 million from the $43.2 million advertised General Fund budget, but Whitten said the insurance plan should be less of a hurdle as costs have gone down due to changes made this year.

“We just have to be conservative,” Whitten said.


The Council made a sweeping motion during its non-binding review of the municipal, townships, and local school budgets that any budget exceeding the growth quotient for next year’s levy would not receive a favorable recommendation to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

Only a few budgets stayed within their growth quotient and a good chunk of those were from Duneland. Those included Westchester Twp., Liberty Twp., Center Twp., the Porter County Public Library system and the Westchester Public Library system.

County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said all conservancy districts stayed within the limit excluding the Indian Boundary Conservancy District, Twin Creeks Conservancy District, White Oak Conservancy District and the Valparaiso Area Lakes Conservancy District.

Urbanik said it should be noted that most taxing units will purposely exceed the growth quotient in order to capture the maximum allowed levy which is set by the DLGF. Since the Council’s recommendation is non-binding, budgets will not be rejected if given a negative review.


Posted 9/15/2015





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