Chesterton Tribune

Frustration continues over lack of funds for parks

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 By MARGARET L. WILLIS

Chesterton Park Board members expressed frustration that the park department got such a low benefit from the town’s windfall payment from the Utility Service Board.

“We appreciate the generous contribution of $20,000,” board member Ted Jacobs said with some sarcasm. “It would seem to me that is money that’s not going to affect the taxpayers or the ratepayers,” he said pointedly, adding that with the attention the County Parks are now focusing on the urgent need for land acquisition the town council should have “taken a hint.”

Jacobs said he agreed that every department should have gotten a share of the money, but that the parks’ needs are the greatest.

“It seems to me they know the parks are always strapped for funds. It’s ridiculous, in my opinion, that the parks should continually be the poor child,” Jacobs said. “We could have done a lot of things with it and nobody would have been hurt,” he added. Board member Dick Littlefield commended council president Richard Whitlow for “going to bat for us.”

The money was a repayment of an emergency transfer made to the Utility Service Board by the Town Council in 1999 to cover costs of repairs to a collapsed sewer beneath Porter Ave. between Fifth St. and Eighth St.

It had originally been suggested by council president Whitlow, R-1st and supported by Gina Darnell, R-5th, that the total of $146,260 be given over to the Park Department, which has struggled for years under what many have called an insufficient budget.

At its February 12 meeting the Town Council voted 3-2 to spend $56,260 of the money on sidewalks and the rest on new equipment and improvements sought by department heads.

Whitlow and Gina Darnell, had both supported all money going the parks. But members Frank Sessa, D-2nd, and Bob Crone, R-3rd--joined by Clerk-Treasurer Gayle Polakowski, to break a tie caused by the absence from the meeting of Member Sharon Darnell, D-4th--voted to split the cash among departments; the lion’s share of which going to what might ordinarily be a project paid for with bonding.

$56,260 was set aside to build a portion of the planned sidewalk on the east side of 23rd St., from the Peterson Ditch easement south of Union Ave. to Dogwood Park. Money remaining from last year’s $885,000 bond issue will pay for the remainder.

$20,000 to the police department for portable radios and a voice stress analyzer.

$20,000 to the fire department for portable radios and new pagers.

$10,000 to the town hall for a new copier.

$20,000 to the street department for improvements to its maintenance building and for yellow flashing school zone lights on Fifth Street.

$20,000 to the park department for a new parking lot at Dogwood Park.

Superintendent Bruce Mathias reported to the board that the Duneland Group is working on a map and drainage plan for the additional 10 acres added to the west side of Dogwood Park. Additional parking and a road are to be installed for access to soccer fields.

“We’ll see how far that’ll take us,” Mathias said of the $20,000, adding that the Duneland Soccer Club has committed to helping provide funds for the project. “If they can help us, then that’s what we’ll do,” he added.

Thanks for Contribution to Parks

The board has sent a letter of thanks to Sigmund Niepokoj, of Chesterton, for his contribution of labor and expertise in making wooden signs for the Dogwood Park’s golf facility.

The new signs will provide a “welcome addition to the overall appearance of the park for years to come,” the letter said, going on to thank Niepokoj for his contribution of “time and talent,” to increase the enjoyment of the parks for the whole of the Chesterton community.

The board tabled the issue of softball field fees, pending review of other area softball fees. Currently, fees are $50 per day plus a $5 per hour maintenance fee. The board agreed they also need to re-examine policies and rules, including concession fees.

In other business, the park board approved the request from the Duneland Diamond Association for use of the baseball field at Fifth St. and Porter Ave., in Chesterton Park.

The association’s season extends from April through October, weather permitting. Rick Youngren, vice-president of the association, pledged to the board the association will abide by park rules and help maintain the field.

“In the past you’ve done a really good job,” said Emanuele, noting the field gets nearly daily use during the summer. The Duneland Diamond Association serves Duneland school district residents.

The nets are in for protecting houses at the north end of the softball fields in Dogwood Park, Mathias said, and will be installed as soon as the weather warms up.

Repairs to the damaged tennis courts will also be undertaken as soon as weather allows, Mathias said. He told the board he’s been waiting to see if the juvenile who caused the damage would be ordered by the court to pay restitution.

The board will meet an hour and a half early for its April 4 meeting for a “windshield tour” of the park system and to hear Mathias explain facilities and point out trouble spots and issues.