Residents of Liberty Twp. yearning to be heard got their chance to speak on
the Chesterton Town Council’s proposal to include the county in its Ind. 49
utility corridor project during Tuesday’s Porter County Council meeting.
About a dozen spoke out at the meeting inquiring if the Town of Chesterton
had plans to expand its boundaries into Liberty Twp. all the way to the U.S.
Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said he and other council members
received a large volume of calls after the County Commissioners voted
favorably 2-1 in February to accept the Chesterton Council’s offer which
would require a $900,000 share from the county.
Although the county council has no authority over the project and a formal
request has not been put forward, Whitten said he thought the citizen
concerns should be part of the public record.
Prior to public comment, Chesterton Town Council member Sharon Darnell told
the county council there has been “conflicting information” circulating in
regard to her board’s intentions. She said the town council has the funding
ready to begin work on bringing new sewer and water lines along Ind. 49 to
Chesterton’s town boundary near the Indiana Toll Road. The $900,000 is the
maximum amount that would be required to upsize the pipes and valves for
adequate capacity to bring utilities into the unincorporated county land
should the county decide to develop the area further south of Chesterton.
Any money left over from the upsizing would be paid back to the county,
Darnell and fellow Chesterton Council member Jeff Trout said they hope to
have a bid proposal for the work go out sometime this month.
While other rumors have the town set to annex Liberty Twp. land, Trout
stated the Chesterton Council has no such ulterior motive.
From the floor, Liberty Twp. Board president Ed Seykowski said Chesterton
has left township residents out of corridor discussions. He presented
documentation from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission verifying the
Damon Run Conservancy District’s authority to render water and sewer service
to certain areas of the county. Seykowski said the URC stated Chesterton’s
proposal to run sewer lines “would result in duplication and abandonment of
utility facilities that (Porter) Hospital has already constructed” with
service to be provided by Damon Run.
Jack Barko, chairman of the Damon Run Conservancy District, said he had not
been approached by the Town of Chesterton for any discussion. Barko said the
conservancy district is running at only 16 percent of its capacity and is
ready to receive more customers.
“(The district) has the capacity to handle new business,” he said.
Barko said he would be willing to go through a due process with the county
to determine if the conservancy district’s services can better serve the
areas in question.
Liberty Twp. resident Herb Read said the land surrounding his residence on
Calumet Road near U.S. 6 is mainly zoned Rural Residential and doubts the
utilities will serve any real benefit to existing homeowners.
“To extend (utilities) to Route 6, I think, is overreaching,” said Read.
Read asked what would be the funding source if the county council puts forth
$900,000. He said he would like to see that money used for other purposes
such as a county park.
Both Read and neighbor Ed Gutt urged the county not to rush into development
and that the $900,000 could be paid not with taxpayer dollars but by
businesses looking to set up shop in the area.
Gutt said if proper measures are not taken, the county could end up with a
situation like South Haven which is said to be the county’s most
dysfunctional area for drainage.
“(Development) should be planned. It should not be off the cuff,” said Gutt
who mentioned he favors the county considering Damon Run since their
utilities are ready to service the area.
Liberty Twp. resident Tim Cole said he believes the confusion surrounding
the project is because it does not have a plan yet. He said the fact that
Chesterton is attempting to incorporate the area south of CR 900 N is
undisguisable and he believes the effort was prompted when the hospital was
set for construction.
Cole said he could not support the corridor project because he did not see
how it could be feasible to the economy of Liberty Twp. or even Chesterton.
Andrew Kincaid, president of the Timberland Homeowners Association, said
homes in his subdivision have paid to hook on to the sewer lines and has not
been any burden to the county. The same could happen in cooperation with
Damon Run for potential development on the 49 corridor.
In his response, Trout reiterated it is entirely up to the county how it
would like to proceed with the offer and the Town of Chesterton is not
intending to take away any residential land.
“We have no desire to ‘gobble up’ Herb Read’s property,” Trout said.
The opening of the new hospital will inevitably attract businesses to the
area, Trout said, and there will be “enormous pressure” to create job
With the hospital and other medical campuses, $280 million has already been
invested in the corridor area, he said. “We think the county wants to be
shovel-ready,” said Trout. “Utilities don’t follow jobs. Jobs follow
Darnell said the mapped areas where the utility corridor would potentially
reach past the Chesterton town limits were not drawn up by Chesterton but
the county’s planning department.
“If we’re in trouble, the teacher got us in to trouble,” she said.
Whitten said the county should study the specifics of the project further
before committing any funds.
Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, said he believes there is “plenty of
opportunity” for development surrounding the hospital but emphasized careful
consideration is needed for residents in the area who are already paying for
Fellow Council member Jim Polarek, R-4th, said he was bothered by a report
last year that raw sewage was being dumped into Lake Michigan from the
Little Calumet River and said proper drainage procedures need to be a
Meanwhile, Seykowski told the council he is working on a separate proposal
that will “knock your socks off” which he plans to present in the next six
to eight months.