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.
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.”
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
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.
for the County are due July 1.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.