Chesterton Tribune



Erin Labovitz named to Porter County Park Board

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Porter County Auditor Vicki Urbanik has made her appointment to the County Park Board.

Urbanik told the Chesterton Tribune after yesterday’s Porter County Board of Commissioners meeting that she has appointed Valparaiso resident Erin Labovitz. Urbanik said Labovitz has a solid background of volunteering and shares Urbanik’s vision of “a vibrant county parks system with a commitment to fiscal accountability and consensus building.”

Labovitz is secretary of the Valparaiso Creative Council, a nonprofit liaison for the Center Township Trustee, and a member of the Shirley Heinze Land Trust board of directors, according to a release from Urbanik.

Following a 2019 change in state law that allows local county governments to change the composition of their respective park boards, the Porter County Council in October adopted a resolution giving the County Auditor appointing authority over one seat on the Park Board.

The resolution also did away with the ex officio seat held by a representative of either the local soil and water conservation district or the extension office, reducing the Board from six members to a five members, and did away with the circuit court judge’s two appointments to make way for the Board of Commissioner to have two appointments instead of one. The County Council continues to appoint two members.

Applications Still Open

The Commissioners made appointments to other boards at their meeting Tuesday, but held off on their Park Board appointment. Since the change in state law, the Commissioners are bound to appoint people from opposite political parties. The Commissioners are also still seeking applications for the seven nonpartisan seats on the Wildlife Management Board.

Democrats who are interested in being the Commissioner appointment to the Park Board and those interested in the Wildlife Board can find an application for board appointment here

Applications must be turned in to the Commissioners by noon Monday, Jan. 27. They can be mailed to Board of Commissioners, Porter County Administration Center, 155 Indiana Avenue, Suite 205, Valparaiso IN 46383; faxed to (219) 465-3362; emailed to or hand-delivered.


The Board reappointed Jason Gilliana to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Marvin Brickner and Debbie Kerr-Cook to the Board of Zoning Appeals, Richard Riley and Kurt Gillins to the Dunes Tourism Board, and Richard Burns to the Plan Commission. The Board also appointed Gilliana and Steven Solarski to the Redevelopment Commission, Tami Bianco and Nancy Kolasa to the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA), and Scott Severson and Bob Gilliana to the Stormwater Advisory Board.

The Commissioners also appointed themselves to various boards and commissions. Laura Blaney (D-South) was appointed to the Plan Commission, Child Protection Team, and Center for Workforce Innovation. Jeff Good (R-Center) was appointed to the Stormwater Advisory Board. Jim Biggs (R-North) was appointed to the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Committee (NIRPC), Community Corrections Advisory Board, Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, Emergency Management Board, and 911 Board.

Other Approvals

The Board reorganized, reelecting Good as President, Blaney as Vice-president, and Biggs as Secretary. Scott McClure was reappointed County Attorney.

In other Park Department business, the Commissioners approved two ordinances on first reading to create funds for the receipt of federal grant money to fund the acquisition of 35 acres adjacent to Brincka-Cross Gardens in Pine Township.

Park Superintendent Walter Lenckos secured a $150,000 Lake Michigan Coastal Program grant and a $179,000 Conservation Fund grant. No taxpayer money is being used in the acquisition, and Lenckos hopes to close on the sale in March. There will be a second reading for the ordinances Jan. 28.

The Commissioners also approved a three-year lease extension agreement between the National Park Service and the Dunes Tourism Board. Executive Director of Dunes Tourism Lorelei Weimer reported an increase in visitation from the renaming of the Indiana Dunes National Park warranted asking NPS to contribute more in its agreement to share space and costs at the Visitor Center on Ind. 49. Under the new lease, NPS will pay $85, 158.24 in 2020, $91,172.24 in 2021, and $97,186.24 in 2022.

Weimer reported average visitation was approximately 95,000 in recent years prior, and since National Park designation, visitation jumped to 170,000 in 2019. Visitors hailed from 64 countries and 49 states, Weimer said.

Weimer and Tourism Attorney David Hollenbeck said federal government red tape precluded them from negotiating a longer-term lease this time around, but they will start negotiating the next lease, hopefully with a term as long as 10 years, as early as September 2020 to get a head start.



Posted 1/15/2020




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