Talk of Burns Harbor’s 2014 budget took an unexpected turn Wednesday when
the Town Council directed its attorney to research possible annexation of
the Bailly Generating Station.
The NIPSCO-owned, coal-fired power plant, noticeable from a far distance
because of its tall air-purification tower, is located east of ArcelorMittal
Steel in unincorporated Porter County.
Councilman Mike Perrine said the town is growing but its revenue is
virtually frozen despite population growth from several subdivisions. He
suggested annexing Bailly, as well as asking state tax officials for
permission to increase revenue by allowing an excess levy collection.
Associate town attorney Chuck Parkinson said his firm will have an
annexation report completed prior to the next meeting.
The council set a special 2014 budget workshop for July 29 at 6:30 p.m. to
review proposed expenses that could justify an excess-levy appeal.
Clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan said state tax officials have indicated revenue
can increase by 2.6 percent over 2013 next year, but town insurance is
projected to increase by 10 percent and PERF, an employee retirement fund,
also will jump.
After Wednesday’s session council president Jim McGee confirmed he’s been
told that under current state law, a hostile annexation when the property
owner doesn’t want to be annexed is harder to accomplish than in years past.
A NIPSCO spokesperson was unavailable for comment Thursday.
In 1985 NIPSCO and the Town of Porter negotiated an agreement where the
utility would make annual payments in return for fire/police protection and
snow removal, but the general perception long has been it’s a payment for
Porter not annexing the Bailly plant.
Porter clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy said the current payment is $150,000 a
year and the contract renews automatically; $10,000 of that amount goes to
the Porter Park Department.
Pomeroy said Porter relies on the $150,000 payment and it would be missed if
Burns Harbor annexed the plant.
In other Burns Harbor business Wednesday, the council agreed to set an
executive session for negotiation strategy to consider the proposal of
American Tower to extend its lease for an existing cellular communications
tower on town property. The current lease has options to extend through 2019
but AT wants to tie up the land for 50 more years.
Dan Botich of town financial consultant Cender & Company said AT is offering
a $25,000 signing bonus and $9,000 a year annually for the extension. A
question had arisen how much the locked-in annual payment would drop in
value in future years.
Botich said AT is anxious to tie up the land to assure carriers co-located
on the tower now it will remain there. A second lease proposal was received
but Botich said its terms were not as favorable.
* Botich provided an analysis of the feasibility of paying off the
2005 sewer bonds early to save interest and free up funds for other
projects. The study was taken under advisement.
* By unanimous motion the council approved spending up to $1,000 to
cover any shortfall tied to the town picnic Aug. 25 from 1 to 3 p.m. at
Lakeland Park. Donations are being solicited from local businesses as well.
Volunteers are needed to serve on the picnic committee.
* The council also voted 5-0 to allow up to $300 for postage and
advertising for the town-wide rummage sale, tentatively set for Aug. 9 and
10. Chairperson Jennifer Canfield said last year 22 households participated
and more are needed this year. Maps are provided.
* Jordan said the mosquitoes are fierce in parts of town and a fogging
was done Wednesday night.
* Police chief Mike Heckman reported 452 incidents were handled in
June including nine vehicle crashes (six resulting in property damage and
three personal injury), 11 arrests (one felony, 10 misdemeanors), 87 tickets
written, and 96 verbal and 34 warning tickets issued.
* Street superintendent Randy Skalku said two sink holes at storm
sewer manholes were repaired on Stanley Street and Old Porter Road.
* Park director Kim Burton said another session of children’s day camp
and art camp begins Monday at Lakeland Park, where the arts & crafts
building is available for rental.