Chesterton Tribune



Park board to seek Aukiki Park funding in 2018 budget

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The Porter County Council will be asked by the County Parks and Recreation Department in its fall budget hearings to allot $3 million to get Aukiki Park built in 2018 in the south part of the county.

At its meeting Thursday, the Park Board voted 5-0 in favor of Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos submitting the budget that mirrors much of its 2017 budget, with a few exceptions. Lenckos said more funding is sought in the parks general fund to help bring the department’s resources up to the standards of the American Disabilities Act and to hire a part-time employee who would oversee programs for youth at the County Juvenile Center.

Also, the budget would raise Park Board attorney David Hollenbeck’s compensation for legal services from $11,600 to $12,500. Board President Rich Hudson had suggested the increase since the rate has stayed the same for ten years, Lenckos said.

Hudson was absent Thursday while his colleagues accepted the changes, along with the $3 million request for Aukiki.

Board Vice-President Craig Kenworthy said the Council recently heard a request from The Caring Place for money generated by the sale of the County-owned Porter Memorial Hospital to help build a new shelter. The park board has addressed the need for funding for Aukiki Park and also the education center at Sunset Hill Farm with County officials over the last few years.

“We’ve been sitting patiently. At this point, I think we should be part of the conversation,” Kenworthy said. “If we don’t ask for it, it’s always going to be a no.”

Board members Annetta Jones and Drew Armstrong agreed that to have the Council consider the funding, it would need to be in the proposed budget.

Jones asked if the Council had indicated any intentions to use hospital money. Lenckos said they hadn’t.

The 63.5-acre Aukiki Park is located between CR 650S and CR 700S on Ind. 49 just north of Kouts. It is envisioned to have baseball fields and softball fields, soccer fields, parking for 600 cars, a community center and trails. Lenckos told the County Council earlier this year that initial engineering estimates for Phase 1 would be close to $3 million which would cover the cost of parking lots, seeding and utilities.

The Council asked early last year for the Park Board to decide if it would rather pursue funding for Aukiki Park or the Sunset Hill Farm Education Center, saying there are not enough funds to fund both projects simultaneously. The Board subsequently chose Aukiki Park, but no additional funding from the Council has been approved.

Department budgets for the County are due July 1.

Kenworthy also addressed an issue he had with salary for a park employee who is receiving the same pay as other employees in addition to being allowed to reside at the house at Sunset Hill Farm.

“We could come up with what would be reasonable rent. I don’t know what the solution would be, but I think we just need to do something,” said Kenworthy.

Board member David Canright said Kenworthy should have addressed the issue to the Budget and Personnel Committee, as delaying the board’s acceptance of the budget would require the board to meet in a special meeting before July. The board could still accept the budget now and then later ratify any changes the committee decides to make at its July meeting, Hollenbeck said.

Canright said he believes there is some benefit received by the taxpayers in having an employee on site at the park but thought Kenworthy raised “good points” about fairness with the other employees.

Plantings at Brookdale

In other actions, the board voted 5-0 for Lenckos to proceed with the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to share costs on planting natural species and flowering plants at Brookdale Park in Liberty Twp. along CR 900N.

The plantings would be part of the park department’s proposal to open areas along the pond. Three places have been identified to put in piers. The plantings would take place in the fall after parks maintenance workers mow down the non-native species and remove all the turf grass, Lenckos said.

Lenckos estimated the parks share of the costs would be about $3,000, which will come out of the maintenance budget.

With the pond and trails open, there will be more opportunities to host fishing programs at the park, Lenckos said. The DNR does have fish stocking available.

Also, Lenckos said over the past few weeks, about the time universities let out for summer, there have been several cars seen daily of people coming to use the pond for recreation.

Land swap

In the attorney’s report, Hollenbeck said that a neighbor of Brincka-Cross Gardens Park has raised questions about the placement of the new trail system at the park and whether it encroaches on their land.

The matter concerns only a small amount of land -- about a third of an acre -- and instead of going through a lengthy and costly litigation process, Hollenbeck said he recommends the board proceed with offering a land swap to resolve the matter.

In all, Lenckos said the parks would lose about one-sixth of an acre to the neighbor and there would be no extra cost to the department.

The board voted 5-0 to offer the swap.

Sunset Hill Education Center

Later in the meeting, Lenckos told the board that he hopes to schedule in the next two weeks with the board, the Parks Foundation and election officials to review plans for the rest of 2017 at Sunset Hill Farm which will include discussion on the proposed education center.

The Parks Foundation has also allocated $175,000 towards education at Sunset Hill and $35,000 to begin repairs at the former Superintendent’s House, Lenckos said.

Also in his report, Lenckos said the Department’s latest program guide was mailed last week and already the kids track and field and cross country programs have filled up.

Jack Kashak of the Northern Indiana Historical Power Society said that NIHPA will be having a clean-up day on Saturday, June 10, of its shop to get ready for summer camp the following Monday.


Posted 6/5/2017





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