Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

County parks to finalize purchase of Liberty Township property

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

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 said.

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.

Brincka-Cross 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.

Sunset Hill Activity Barn

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 approved.

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.

 

 

Posted 8/2/2010

 

 

 

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