Chesterton Tribune



Reconstruction of Calumet Trail to move forward after pipeline project

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Plans to refurbish the Calumet Trail are being revived as NIPSCO finishes replacing a natural gas line beneath the trail.

At Tuesday’s Porter County Commissioners meeting, Director of the County’s Development and Stormwater Management Depart-ment Robert Thompson said after the pipeline installation is complete, the County and the Indiana Department of Transportation will let for construction.

The Commissioners voted 3-0 to renew the agreement with INDOT for work on the Calumet Trail originally planned in 2013. Thompson said the construction was put on hold two years ago when the trail partners learned of the pipeline project.

NIPSCO owns the easement where the trail runs parallel to U.S. 12 and the Northern Indiana Transportation Commuter District’s South Shore tracks, but the trail is maintained by the Porter County Parks Department..

As in the original plan, this phase of construction will cover nearly two miles between Mineral Springs Rd. in the town of Porter and Tremont Rd. in Westchester Township.

Thompson had said the stretch of trail floods frequently and the project will involve putting in asphalt to raise the trail.

The funding is still available, Thompson said. A grant of $400,000 came from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority through the Town of Porter.

That will be a local match to the $1.6 million in federal transportation enhancement grants, for a total of $2 million, Thompson said.

The trail has been closed since mid-July due to the pipeline replacement from East State Park Boundary Rd. to Mineral Springs Rd. and is expected to reopen next month.

Thompson said he has been in contact with NICTD as its double-tracking proposal may affect the trail’s construction. The solution being discussed is to move the trail north under a set of piers where it crosses under Ind. 49.

In other matters related to INDOT, Thompson said the County received a $40,000 railroad crossings grant from the agency. The money will be put towards striping at railroad crossings where the paint is fading. An inventory was done last summer and the Department is deciding which crossings are the most important, Thompson said.

Thompson and County Stormwater Engineer Mike Novotney also reported on the work done by the Department’s summer intern program, creating an inventory of the culverts and sewer structures that need attention. Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, praised the work as it will help the Department see what needs to be done to ameliorate drainage problems.

“We got a lot of information collected in the first year and a half we started this department,” Good said.

Foundation holding fund

Meanwhile, in other business, the Commissioners voted 3-0 on second reading to establish a non-reverting fund for holding the earnings made from investment of the sale proceeds from Porter Memorial Hospital and 3-0 on first reading for a “budget fund..”

County Attorney Scott McClure said the holdings account purpose is to retain the earnings at the end of each year. The Porter County Government Nonprofit Endowment Foundation, consisting of the Commissioners and the County Council, would have control of the account and can transfer any amount of earnings to the “budget fund.” The latter’s funds would be what the Council can use to fund items in the County’s budgets.

The Council has said at its 2018 budget hearings last month that it will likely tap into the interest earnings to balance the budget.

Capital improvements

The Commissioners entered into an agreement with Shive-Hatterly Architects, which has an office in Valparaiso, to conduct a needs assessment of the County-owned facilities within the City of Valparaiso, such as the County Administration Building and the County Courthouse. The cost is roughly $32,000.

Good said this will be a first step in the Commissioners’ $30 million capital improvements plan that will now include building on to the County Administration Building. The historic Courthouse building will undergo tuckpointing and rehabilitation for the windows.

In addition, the Commissioners Tuesday approved documents for the bond issue to pay for the six projects. Other parts of the plan include replacing three bridges in poor condition, renovating the Expo Center and the North County Complex in Portage.

“It’s needs, not wants (on this list), some of the buildings have not been touched in 25 years. We have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Good, who mentioned the Council voted unanimously in favor the bond issue. “We feel the two boards have come together to move this county in the right direction.”

911/EMA vehicles

For the newly combined E-911 and County Emergency Manage-ment Agency department, the Commissioners will purchase new vehicles for it up to $150,000. This will replace two vehicles currently that have a high number of miles.

Good talked further about the decision to combine both 911 and EMA together and how the board is raising the standards for public safety.

“With what happened in Las Vegas (on Monday), the world is turning into a little bit of a different place. This needs to be taken much more serious than in the past,” he said.

The money for the vehicles will be purchased out of a fund containing unallocated income tax dollars.

Other business

-- Second reading and adoption was made to create a fund to hold fees collected from cities and towns for Animal Shelter and Animal Control services. Good said the Commissioners will continue to adjust other parts of the Animal Control ordinance as needed.

-- The independent contractor agreement with Curt Ellis for the County’s website and social media outreach has been terminated. Ellis has now been hired as an employee of the County and will continue to do some of the responsibilities he performed as an independent contractor.

-- The Memorial Opera House will purchase new draperies through Exquisite Draperies for its auditorium, lounge and box office. MOH Director Scot MacDonald said the venue continues to improve over last year with sales and currently there is a discount available on season passes for next year in celebration of its 125th anniversary.

-- A three-year contract was approved with NITCO to mark out where underground fiber optics are that provide internet connection to the County Administration Building and Courthouse. The cost is $3,000 per year.

-- The Commissioners approved a request by the Porter County Substance Abuse Council to disburse grant funds to designated agencies. The money comes from the fees charged by the County Courts.




Posted 10/4/2017




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