Chesterton Tribune

Commissioners agree on need for new activity center at Sunset Hill Farm

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There was a time when the Porter County Park Board had hoped to Raise the Barn: to retrofit Col. Murray’s dairy barn at Sunset Hill Farm County Park into an activity center.

But the barn was found not to be salvageable and was finally removed.

The need for an activity center remains, however, as Park Superintendent Walter Lenckos told the Porter County Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday afternoon. In fact the need is becoming dire, with the number of kids which Sunset Hill Farm is able to serve on field trips capped at 100 or so and the demand for summer camp continuing to grow.

It’s with that need in mind that Lenckos asked the Commissioners to make a commitment of $700,000 for the construction of a new activity center. The Porter County Park Foundation has already raised around $200,000 toward the project and is confident of raising another $300,000 this year, while the Park Board had earmarked $200,000 in CEDIT funds.

But those moneys will probably only account for half of the amount needed to build a 9,000 to 10,000 square foot facility capable both of providing program space and of accommodating administrative functions, Lenckos said. Total cost of the project: $2 to $3 million, depending on the parameters and design.

Lenckos noted that the facility’s design would reflect traditional farming in Indiana, would increase the number of kids which Sunset Hill Farm can serve, would need to be simple and cost-effective to maintain, and should be energy efficient.

Commissioner John Evans, R-North, concurred that the need exists. “I agree this has to happen,” he said, but quickly added that, right now, the Commissioners were not in a position to earmark moneys. “We’re on board with this project but we can’t commit any funds at this point.”

Evans added that the need will only increase with the construction of Porter hospital’s new facility just north and east of Sunset Hill Farm, at the corner of U.S. Highway 6 and Ind. 49. “With the hospital, the volume of traffic, the number of things you’re going to have to do will increase,” he said. “I don’t know where the money is going to come from but we have to be part of this as well.”

Fair Grounds

In other business, the Commissioners voted 3-0 to approve an expenditure of $30,000 in CEDIT funds—$10,000 from each of the districts’ allotments—to contribute to the estimated $75,000 to $90,000 cost of building a centrally located facility on the Fair Grounds for use by 4H.

Lonnie Steel of the Porter County Agricultural Society (PCAS) asked for the contribution, told the Commissioners that both the 4H Council and the Fair Board are investing in the facility, and that—among other things—the building would be used year-round for 4H meetings, for horse shows, and for special outdoor events.

The building—probably 30’ x 40’ in size—would include a concession area, with the proceeds from sales going to 4H, Steel said.

The Commissioners were amenable to Steel’s request but did suggest that 4H pick up the cost of the building’s utilities. “Some agreement would need to be written so you guys can pay the light bill,” said Commissioner John Evans, R-North. “If the proceeds are for your use, the 4H Council should pay the expenses.”

The Commissioners also voted 3-0 to split with the Fair Board the estimated $9,000 cost of remedying some drainage problems near the horse arena.

Engineering Contracts

Meanwhile, at the recommendation of Drainage Board President Dave Burrus, the Commissioners voted 3-0 to award 10 engineering contracts to three firms to undertake watershed studies of the Top 10 areas in the county identified as “significant concerns.”

Those areas were ranked based on the frequency of severe flooding, the impact on residents, the threat to public safety, and sensitivity to development.

The contracts:

•SEH Inc., $38,000: C.R. 700N west of Swanson Road.

•SEH Inc., $57,000: the Brown Ditch watershed in Beverly Shores and The Pines in Pine Township.

•SEH Inc., $33,250: the Bernard Koselke Ditch in Liberty Township.

•SEH Inc., $36,000: Dog Lake Ditch in Hebron.

•SEH Inc., $57,000: Ludington Ditch (Downstream Lake Eliza).

•GAI Consultants Inc., formerly The Bonar Group, $14,250: Kemper Ditch in Pine Township.

•GAI Consultants Inc., $38,000: Duck Creek in Wheeler.

•GAI Consultants Inc., $38,000: Smith Ditch in Valparaiso.

•DLZ Inc., $95,000: the Damon Run watershed, serving the site of the new Porter hospital facility at U.S. Highway 6 and Ind. 49 in Liberty Township.

•DLZ Inc., $190,000: Old South Haven.



Posted 5/18/2011