The Porter County Parks and Recreation board on Thursday approved two
contacts, one for architectural work and the other for construction
management, which will advance the Raise the Barn project at Sunset Hill
Farm despite the fact the county has not named a funding source to cover the
projected cost of $3 million.
Before the board voted on the documents, Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos
said the parks department has roughly $500,000 in its allotted county income
tax fund stored up from the current and previous years combined. With the
$200,000 from the non-profit Porter County Parks Foundation, the total will
be enough to cover this portion of the project.
The contract for the architectural design was awarded to Vavrek Architects,
of Whiting, who will be compensated 6 percent of construction costs minus
$30,000 that was already paid to them for work done, board president Rich
According to agreements in the other contract, Hasse Construction, of
Munster, will receive $290,000 for its role as construction manager and will
be paid out once the work is finished. The construction manager will be in
charge of hiring firms to perform the work of building the approximately
10,000 square-foot facility that will have classroom features to educate the
public on sustainable farming practices and green initiatives.
The two companies were initially picked by the board at a special meeting in
Hasse’s contract is contingent on a few matters, however. Board attorney
David Hollenbeck, who was unable to attend the meeting, left word that he
would like to see three sections reworded. According to Hudson, Hollenbeck
indicated the revisions would not change the overall contract or dollar
amounts and the contract would be safe to vote on. With the board’s
approval, Hudson will then sign the final version of the document on the
The board unanimously voted 6-0 agreeing to the architect contract but split
5-1 on the construction with board member Craig Kenworthy dissenting after a
conversation regarding money matters.
Lenckos and a few board members approached the county council and more
recently the county commissioners who had positive reactions but have not
committed to the $2 million requested. County Commissioner President John
Evans, R-North, on Tuesday leaned toward the option of using hospital
interest money but agreed with fellow commissioner Carole Knoblock, D-South,
not to “put the horse before the cart” and asked that the parks department
try to raise more initial donations.
Evans said earlier this week the barn is worth pursuing and he would like to
see more attractions such as a museum, but the county must also give
attention to matters such as building a new animal shelter.
Nonetheless, the majority of the board members felt the need to move forward
“It’s been a long time coming. There’s no need to delay,” said board member
Board member David Canright mentioned the county has discussed moving a few
of its offices to the new facility, which would help open up some needed
space in the county administration building. Approving the contracts would
send a clear message that the board means business, he said, and would help
kick off the fundraising.
“I think it signals to the (public) that we serious raising these funds and
it shows the county officials we are serious about moving our offices out
there. I think it is the right thing to do,” Canright said.
On the other hand, Kenworthy cautioned to move slowly until it is certain
the board can afford the work, which is why he voted “no” on approving the
construction manger contract.
“What I don’t see is the cash for the bill. We need to have that. Are we
putting ourselves in a hole for something we cannot pay for?” Kenworthy
said, who wished Hollenbeck was present to answer his question.
Lenckos said there is enough money on hand now to get started and he will be
speaking to the county council again later this month.
on the horizon
The department is setting its’ sights on starting a fundraising campaign to
raise the extra $300,000 needed, Lenckos said.
Details about a plan to fundraise will be discussed at the board’s next
meeting in July.
From the floor, parks supporters Herb and Charlotte Read said from their
experience with fundraising “it is not an easy thing to do” but offered
their help. One goal to shoot for would be to make the effort more widely
visible, they said.
Lenckos said a fundraising committee is being formed and will be led by
Bridge cover to
In another matter, Lenckos reported a few bids had been submitted to take
down the top of the covered bridge located on the Calumet Trail and were
lower than he expected. He said he would like to complete a few more steps,
including getting permission from NIPSCO since the bridge is on the
A reason for the takedown is that the bridge cover is commonly vandalized,
The bridge cover may be restored and moved to Sunset Hill Farm but the
bridge decking will remain on the Calumet Trail.
Also, the board extended its lease with the Northern Indiana Historical
Power Association for another year. The current two-year lease, which allows
NIHPA to farm and hold its annual fall festival and antique tractor show at
Sunset Hill Farm every September, will expire at the end of this month.
The extension of the lease will give the board time to work on a new
long-term lease which will need to be accomplished by the end of June 2013.
Spring event a
Lenckos reported that over 400 vehicles were counted at the Spring Out to
Sunset which saw a larger turnout than previous years, helped by good
Lenckos thanked his staff and all the vendors who worked hard, contributing
to the success of the event.
“They’re the ones that we owe a great deal of gratitude,” he said.
Lenckos said the parks’ summer camp programs continue to fill up. The first
day for camp is this Monday.