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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.