Chesterton Tribune

Raise the Barn project 'long overdue.' enthusiastic County Council says

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Though not on its meeting agenda, the Porter County Council invited county parks superintendent Walter Lenckos to speak a few words Tuesday regarding his goal to close the $2 million gap on the Raise the Barn project at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.

Lenckos predicts the future activity center, which will match the appearance of a barn, will boost attendance numbers of children attending summer camp programs at Sunset Hill Farm from 10,000 to 20,000.

A survey for the parks department’s new five-year master plan indicated that a majority of residents feel Sunset Hill Farm should be the hub of the parks department and rated having the Raise the Barn building there as somewhat to very important.

“People see this as the center of what we do,” said Lenckos.

Raise the Barn will provide educational opportunities for adults as well, Lenckos said. The barn will implement green design features like geothermal wells and solar power that will teach residents how to save energy.

With the addition of Raise the Barn, Lenckos said Sunset Hill Farm will be a “destination park” that will connect its pedestrian walkways with Porter Regional Hospital at the U.S. 6 and Meridian Road intersection and Rogers Lakewood Park in Valparaiso located on Meridian south of Sunset Hill Farm. The park could possibly connect to Chesterton once the Dunes-Kankakee Trail is developed.

Lenckos said there is a strong possibility his department could move its offices to Sunset Hill Farm. Other offices, Lenckos said, like the Porter County Purdue Extension and Recycling and Waste Reduction offices could also relocate there since they work closely together, freeing up some extra space in the County Administration Building.

While the council typically frowns on large requests, Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, said he was impressed with the fact that the Parks Foundation on its own has already raised nearly $1 million toward the $3 million initiative. He favored the new center’s educational approaches and said he “whole-heartedly” supports the project that has been in the works for more than a decade.

“I think we need it. It’s long overdue,” said Biggs.

Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said he was glad to see that the project would not impact the general fund and that it has potential to generate revenue for the county.

Also joining in the enthusiasm, Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said, “It’s a good project and it is something we want to see move forward.”

The discussion did not yield a formal request for funds and no vote was taken but Whitten asked Lenckos where he would propose the $2 million appropriation come from. Lenckos said he did not have a recommendation and would leave the decision up to the council what they feel is best.

Lenkcos said Hasse Construction has been selected by the park board to initiate the construction work. The design should take 10 to 14 weeks and the actual construction for the two-story structure will take 8 months, Lenckos said.

 

Posted 4/26/2012