Porter County will be seeing stars, and in a good way.
County commissioner president Robert Harper, D-Center, and fellow
commissioner John Evans, R-North, were the first in the state to approve a
resolution that endorses the reduction of light pollution, a term for
excessive outdoor lighting.
Less light pollution means the nighttime skies will be more visible to those
below the ether.
“We think it’s important,” said Harper, who mentioned that the resolution
has also met approval from the county plan commission.
Harper is also president of the nine-member plan commission board. He said
the resolution relates to the “green space” ordinance to preserve the
natural qualities of the county. He said the resolution will aid the plan
commission and that no new rules have been established yet.
County attorney Gwenn Rinkenberger gave her approval Tuesday saying she
found nothing harmful in the resolution.
“This is so cool,” responded Chicago astronomer Audrey Fischer who brought
the resolution to the commissioners’ desks.
“Porter County has the potential to become a leader in the area of
artificial outdoor illumination practices by promoting a diversified team
effort implementing sound environmental policies which will benefit
residents of Porter County, students of the universities, guests who visit
the Indiana Dunes National Shoreline and serve as a positive example for the
nation to follow,” Fischer wrote in the resolution.
She said she chose to present her resolution to Porter County because of the
Dunes Lakeshore and said that if communities work together to reduce light
pollution, the Milky Way can come into view in the dunes’ night sky.
“Light pollution is a global problem,” she said as indicated in a report
done last year by the American Medical Association. “Porter County has a
good handle on (pollution), but they just need to preserve what can be seen
in the sky.”
One of the ways to diminish light pollution, Fischer said, is to install
lights on city streets that direct their beams straight down instead of
allowing the light to scatter through the atmosphere up to 100 miles or
Fischer, who does her astronomy work as a volunteer, is a member of several
prominent astronomy associations such as the Chicago Astronomers Society and
the International Dark-Sky Association where she is a board member. She also
helped found the One Star at a Time program and StarPals that educate
children on a global level on the importance of astronomy.
StarPals’ first event connected Chicago school children with another school
in Jerusalem through Skype Video conferencing as they both watched the Orion
The program, she said, is “global” and let’s children around the world
realize the sky is something they all share. “We can explore together.”
The ultimate goal of Fisher’s programs aside from reducing light pollution
would be to introduce “StarParks” or astronomy clubs into every community on
a worldwide scale where children and community members can bring with them a
telescope or check one out to stargaze.
Two major viewing sites currently in the region are the Valparaiso
University Observatory and Purdue University Calumet’s NIRo telescope in
Lake County. Both schools had faculty members who wrote recommendations for
the resolution to the county commissioners.
Fisher said the National Parks Service indicated in a study last year that
by the year 2025, it is expected that less than ten percent of people will
ever experience a starry night unless measures are taken. She said the
upcoming generation will believe having a sky absent of starlight is normal.
Fischer’s efforts caught the attention of a few locals with an interest in
preserving the view of celestial views, primarily the Milky Way.
"Stars are beautiful,” said Chesterton resident Mark Montgomery, who came to
support the resolution after reading about it in newspapers.
Michigan City resident Larry Silvestri said he has only been able to see the
Milky Way “faintly” from the dunes and felt losing the night time sky would
be taking away “a source of inspiration.”
Supporters of the resolution found Fischer herself a source of inspiration.
Fischer has received praise from Chicago Mayor Richard Daily and was
instrumental in having a first-ever stargazing event for children at The
White House in Washington D.C.
“She’s a pied-piper,” said Illinois Institute of Technology Assistant
Physics Professor Jeff Terry. “I’ll help wherever she goes.”
The group treated the commissioners afterwards to a view the planet Jupiter
and its moons from a high-powered telescope set up outside the entrance of
the county administration building.
“I think it is a great way to get back to nature. You can look up and see
what’s going on.” Evans said shortly after getting an up-close look of
Fischer did not expect the commissioners to approve the resolution
unanimously and said she was “very pleased” with the vote. “What they did
was fantastic,” she told the Chesterton Tribune.
Certain group members of Tuesday night’s astronomers are making the effort
to get more local governments throughout the state to pass the resolution,
the most immediate of which being the city of Terre Houte.
to Test Sirens
In other matters, Phil Griffith who is the director of the county’s
emergency management, asked the commissioners to consider providing money to
replace outdated batteries in a few sirens around the county, two of which
are in Pine and Jackson Twp.
It would take approximately $370 to replace the five-year batteries for each
siren and another $470 to test the sirens.
Griffith said the townships would like to purchase up to six more sirens to
be picked up by the county.
Tests were conducted on Tuesday, Griffith said.
Griffith is seeking a company to do the maintenance work on an annual basis
and the commissioners said that EMA could receive bids from interested
Griffith said the Chesterton-based Bartronics handles emergency siren
maintenance in a few municipalities including Porter, Chesterton or
Westchester Twp., Liberty Twp., Union Twp., and Ogden Dunes.
The commissioners will further discuss the issue with Griffith in four
weeks. They will also be speaking on what county building should receive
emergency backup power.
In the meantime, DLZ will be inspecting the buildings to see how much power
would be needed to generate backup lights, refrigeration, boilers, and the
Also on Tuesday, Porter County Sherriff’s Police member Sgt. Bud Gootee, who
primarily serves as business manager, told the commissioners the PCSP is
wanting to apply for an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant of $10,000 that
would help pay for Videotech audio and video equipment to be placed in the
patrol room worth approximately $3,599.
The equipment would be used to tape suspect interrogations around the clock
which is now required by the Indiana Rules of Court, Gootee said.
The commissioners unanimously approved the PCSP to apply for the grant.