Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Residents ask Commissioners for action on Calumet Trail

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By LILY REX

Dune Acres residents Lyn and John MacDougall were at Tuesday’s Porter County Board of Commissioners meeting to discuss the condition of the Calumet Trail.

Lyn read a statement prepared by John, who she said has trouble speaking. Lyn read from the statement, saying John uses his wheelchair to go outdoors and also rides a recumbent trike to enjoy nature. “The Calumet Trail, as it is today, is unusable for me and would be unusable or very unpleasant for most bikers, runners, or users of any kind. Most cyclists instead risk their lives to use Highway 12. The surface is very large, rough gravel or clay set in some sort of concrete that is so jagged it is a hazard,” the statement said.

MacDougall went on in his statement to say the Calumet Trail is an important link in the Marquette Greenway and could be a valuable asset to the National Park, but right now, most of it is flooded east of the Dune Park South Shore Line train station.

MacDougall said, “Many Porter County residents would like to see the Calumet Trail reach its potential,” including over 800 people who have signed a recent Change.org petition to prioritize funding for improvements. MacDougall inquired what, if any, roadblocks are in the way of seeking state and federal grant funding for the Trail.

The Calumet Trail began as a Commissioners’ initiative in the late 90s. It was later turned over for the County Parks Department to maintain, though NIPSCO owns the land.

County Attorney Scott McClure responded that early engineering was done some time ago for improvements to the Trail, but NIPSCO putting in a major pipeline on the property and the South Shore line double-tracking project have made the old engineering moot. “I’m not sure you can get much larger issues that have changed since some of that original engineering has been done,” McClure said.

“Right now, what we’re attempting to do is gather the information necessary to determine what needs to change about the original planning now that we have those two issues,” McClure said. “There is some grant money available; however, we have a lot of issues to work through as far as the best possible solution for the Calumet Trail.”

Both NIPSCO and NICTD, the South Shore Line authority, will need access to the property for maintenance, which means improvements will have to meet their specifications.

North Commissioner Jim Biggs (R), who was in office when the Trail was first developed, agreed with McClure that the circumstances surrounding improvements to the Trail are very different today, not just because of new projects, but also in terms of materials costs.

“We’re competing with other communities throughout the state for that grant money, and the state of Indiana can’t afford to wait until we get the answers we need before we make a future investment there,” Biggs said about grant funding.

Biggs said, “There’s nobody up here” who doesn’t want to see improvements to the Calumet Trail, “but like any organization, we’re limited in the amount of resources.” The Commissioners will have to consider tough questions as new information on the Trail comes to them in the next 60 to 90 days, according to Biggs.

“Is it a smart investment that we’re going to make on behalf of the residents of Porter County to put that kind of money on that length of Trail under those circumstances? That’s what we also have to decide,” Biggs said. “It’s not an easy decision.”

In other business, the Board honored two Highway Department employees for decades of service. Guy Johnson, 25-year Highway Department veteran, and Harold Salyer, a 30-year veteran, were each given plaques and golden shovels.

E911

911 Director Rob Lanchsweerdt requested the Board approve a five-year renewal of the County’s contract for providing RAVE mobile public safety alerts. The five-year renewal is $53,735.40.

“More and more of our community members are using mobile devices to communicate with us,” Lanchsweerdt said. “This instantly provides information on who is calling.”

Porter County residents can make a profile when they sign up for mobile alerts so first responders have important information about what to expect on a call. There are 261 profiles so far.

The Commissioners cited low participation and the fact that changing technology could make RAVE less useful in five years, and opted for the slightly more expensive three-year renewal instead for $55,486.80. “I would just hate to see us caught up in a contract that we want to get out of when we can’t,” Center Commissioner Jeff Good(R) said.

Other Approvals

The Board approved a memorandum of understanding between the Memorial Opera House and the Memorial Opera House Foundation for sharing marketing costs. Opera House Director Scot MacDonald reported the Foundation is hosting several events this year, and the MOU allows that the Opera House budget can be used to help market those events. In turn, the Foundation will reimburse the Opera House for the marketing costs using the proceeds of the events. McClure said it was a win for everybody.

The Board approved a professional services agreement with Shive-Hattery for $23,800 for facilities master planning as the capital improvements projects wrap-up and the County turns its attention to space utilization.

The Council also conducted a first reading of an ordinance regarding potential conflicts of interest in the building department. The ordinance is the result of a change in state law requiring municipalities to record in their respective Codes that building commissioners cannot approve building permits that they may benefit from personally. No one spoke for or against the ordinance in a public hearing. There will be a second reading at the next meeting.

The Board opened bids for paving on North Calumet Road from Wesley Road to U.S. 6 and Meridian Road from 600N to U.S. 6. Walsh & Kelly was deemed the low, responsible bidder at $679,929.42. Highway Engineer Matt Gavelek reported they will be milling and putting down two inches of fresh asphalt on N. Calumet and one and a half inches on Meridian, as well as striping. One lane will be open at all times.

 

 

Posted 8/15/2019

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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