Chesterton Tribune



Porter County extends Visitor Center lease with National Park Service

Back To Front Page



Porter County Commissioners voted 3-0 Tuesday to renew the lease with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, for space at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center, for up to another three years.

County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission Attorney David Hollenbeck said leases with the National Park Service are made through the General Service Administration.

The County has a memorandum of understanding with the GSA as well, but that is “still a work in progress” and will be approved later for the lease to move forward.

PCCRVC Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said the visitors commission and the Lakeshore will discuss the MOU, including the possibility of a long-term lease of “at least 10 years,” because the relationship between them is “so solid.”

The previous lease was for five years and it seemed to “come up so quickly,” Weimer said.

The Visitor Center has been shared since it opened in November 2006.

The building is owned by the Porter County Board of Commis-sioners.

In the new lease, the first year is fully committed while the last two years are negotiable. It would start this November and would be in place until November 2019 for the maximum, Hollenbeck said.

For the first year, the National Lakeshore will pay a total of $65,104. It is to pay $67,057 in the second and $69,069 for the third. That is 20 percent of fair market value for rent, Weimer said, along with additional costs in operation expenses and long-term capital improvement.

Animal Shelter donation funds

In other business Tuesday, the Commissioners agreed to procure a merchant’s agreement with Heartland Bank for the County Animal Shelter to accept donations online.

Heartland will hold the donation money from the Shelter’s website in a checking account and regularly will deposit it into the Shelter’s non-reverting donation fund overseen by the County Auditor’s Office.

County Attorney Scott McClure said the reason the separate checking account is needed is because the donations are not public tax dollars. Donations made by credit card are charged a $1.99 processing fee, which the County can’t take in, similar to when someone pays their property tax bills online.

Heartland also has a merchant’s agreement with the Expo Center, McClure said.

Curt Ellis, who is the contractor paid to operate the Shelter’s website and Facebook page, said he feels the Shelter should pay the fees so that people will not be charged for making a donation.

In the agreement, The County will pay a monthly merchant’s charge of $24.95 which will be offset by the donation fund.

Good said he would like to see the County start leveraging the volume of donations made to the Shelter or Expo Center and see if a better rate can be negotiated when the contract comes up again. That way other County venues can use the service with better pricing.

Shelter construction

In other Animal Shelter news, the Commissioners approved three change orders for the ongoing construction of a replacement shelter on Ind. 49 near the fairgrounds.

Robin Witte, architect with Larson-Danielson, said the Shelter will have LED lights rather than florescent bulbs. The LED lights will allow the County to save on energy costs.

Another change order was to put an onsite generator for the facility back into the scope of construction. The third was for the addition of two interior doors for security in the private areas of the Shelter where animals will be treated.

The construction is making progress and “the walls are up,” said Witte.

“The colors are selected and all we have to do is build it,” added Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center.

Meanwhile, the Commissioners approved renewing contracts for the Towns of Hebron and Kouts to receive animal control services with the County Sheriff’s Department for one year.

Kouts’ fee is $1,600 and Hebron’s is $5,600. The fees are split evenly among the Sheriff’s Department and the Animal Shelter.

Highway Superintendent resigning

Towards the end of the meeting, Commissioner President John Evans, announced that Highway Superintendent David James has tendered his resignation and will be leaving on Thursday, Oct. 13.

The Commissioners have appointed Highway Assistant Andrew McKay to be interim superintendent as they begin a search for a permanent department director.

James succeeded longtime superintendent Al Hoagland after he retired in 2014. Good said James in his letter mentioned he is moving closer to retirement and looking at other opportunities.

Other items Tuesday:

-- The Commissioners approved on second reading a petition to vacate an alley on the south side of U.S. 20 on Willow St. in the Town of Pines. The owner, DDALT Corporation, will be using the property for well monitoring, said Robert Thompson, Director of Development and Stormwater Management for the County.

-- Final readings on ordinances were approved to start five non-reverting funds for the Memorial Opera House to hold grants from the AOC Arts Project, Arts Midwest Touring, United Way Power of Youth, the Anderson Foundation and the PCCD Sparking the Arts Grant.

-- A first reading was given on an ordinance to create a non-reverting fund to hold funds from a planning grant given for the preservation of the historic Collier Lodge in Pleasant Twp.


Posted 10/5/2016





Search This Site:

Custom Search