Porter County Parks board attorney Dave Hollenbeck told the park board
Thursday the parks system should acquire “the last piece of the puzzle” on
the 67-acre property the county is purchasing from Liberty Twp. resident
Barney Michaels by the end of the month.
This will be the third transaction made by the county parks since the county
began purchasing the property in stages over three years starting in 2008 as
part of the agreement with Michaels. The remaining 22.5-acre parcel will be
sold to the county for $257,000 in acquisition costs using County Economic
Development Income Tax money.
The first transaction was made in July 2008 for $361,000 for 18.3 acres,
acquiring two parcels. A third parcel was bought for a price of $271,000 for
27 acres in July 2009. Both also used CEDIT funds.
The first payment is substantially larger because it included the house that
sits on the property.
Hollenbeck said before the final payment is made, he will ensure the park
board will have ownership over the entire area included in the already
acquired parcels to make sure they are physically connected to the new piece
of acquired land in a concise unit.
“It’s very important the all the pieces of the (parcel) come together,” he
Hollenbeck will also clear it up with the title company that the deeds are
to be in the name of the Porter County Parks Board. He said he is not sure
how the matter came about, but an asterisk on the deed suggests the property
is in the hands of the parks department, which he said was not correct.
The property owners have called the parks “dilatory” in not turning over the
acquisition payments sooner. Hollenbeck said the agreement states that the
payments do not have to be made until the end of this calendar year -- or
Dec. 31-- but traditionally the park board has chosen to make the
transactions earlier in July. He expects the transaction can be made in the
next few days.
The property, located on the north side of CR 900N and east of Meridian Rd.,
is the site for the proposed Brookdale County Park which is to be the
county’s first active park featuring soccer, softball, and baseball fields
for youth. The park will also feature a running/walking track and possibly a
nature study area in the planned passive areas.
The parks’ Land Acquisition and Development Committee who is spearheading
efforts for the new park on Thursday recommended JJR to the parks board as
the firm to act as consultants on the parks master plan.
A sub-committee interviewed the twelve firms who responded to a Request for
Proposals issued by the parks board in June and picked the Chicago-based
firm for their recommendation for $45,000 and 500 hours of work.
The plan is expected to be completed by spring 2011.
Board member Ruth Jarnecke made the motion to the board to accept the
recommendation. The $45,000 will be paid with allocated CEDIT funds.
The four board members present voted unanimously on the motion. Absent from
the meeting were board members James Perkins and David Canright.
Richard Maxey, chairman of the Land Acquisition and Development Committee,
said the plan for Brookdale has moved forward “quite rapidly” since initial
meetings in January and thanked the board for their continued support.
Members of the committee met with Porter County Commissioner President
Robert Harper, D-Center, to discuss what support the commissioners were
willing to give for the Brookdale project with CEDIT funds.
Hollenbeck said the board should commend the commissioners for being able to
“put their money where their mouth is” in finding funds for county parks
projects, especially at a time where it can be a struggle.
Park board president Rich Hudson agreed, “It’s very important to have that
kind of support.”
On the topic of land acquisition, Westchester Township resident Herb Read
spoke from the audience telling the park board they should consider further
land purchases since the opportunity to do so is diminishing as the county
continues to be bought up for development.
Master Plan Almost Finished
Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos reported three-fourths of the master
planning for the Brincka-Cross Gardens property in Furnessville is complete
with the consultant, landscaper Chuck Lehman of Lehman & Lehman.
The parks board had earlier approved the master plan work for $20,195.
Lenckos mentioned he would like to invite more groups to the park to hold
events and classes such as the Master Gardeners, biologists, and students
and faculty from Valparaiso University.
The plan also wishes to guide the park to become financially stable.
The park staff is currently developing future programs with focus groups at
Brincka-Cross. “We’re hoping to do a fun event this fall,” said Lenckos.
Lenckos told the Chesterton Tribune a free painting demonstration
class will be given by Shirley Massey at Brincka-Cross next Tuesday Aug. 10
from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those interested in attending can stop by anytime
during the demonstration.
Lenckos also proposed beginning regular evaluations and recognitions for
park staff members. The annual check-in will spell out performance
objectives for staffers, giving them a clearer focus on what goals the parks
department wishes to accomplish.
Lenckos said he spoke to Parks Foundation members Jarnecke and David Yeager
regarding a $163,750 transfer to the Foundation once a bid for the
construction of an activity barn at Sunset Hill Farm County Park has been
Lenckos has requested the project includes a comprehensive plan to develop
more programs at that park and that the “green and sustainable” design be
included wherever possible to reduce overall operation costs.
Yeager said the Foundation should have more information from the interested
bidders by at the next meeting.
Also on Thursday was a small discussion on the early planning stages of
implementing a new sewer system at Sunset Hill Farm with Damon Run
Conservancy District as the possible provider.