Chesterton Tribune



Burns Harbor Town Council and RDC split costs of new emergency radios

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The Burns Harbor Town Council will foot the bill for the mandated upgrades of emergency service radio equipment to an 800 megahertz system with the help of the Town’s Redevelopment Commission.

The Police Department will receive nine new radios while the Fire Department will get ten for about $2,700 per unit. That comes to $61,502, according to RDC member Nick Loving who researched the radios.

The RDC on Wednesday decided to allocate half the costs at $30,751 from its budget at the request of the Town Council. The Council later then voted 4-1 to take $30,751 from its local share of County local income tax money to complete the purchase for the upgrades.

Abstaining from voting was Council member and RDC President Marcus Rogala who is one of the Town’s volunteer firefighters.

The Town did not budget for the radios when they adopted the 2017 budget. The Porter County Commissioners last August were told by representatives of the state’s Integrated Public Safety Commission and Motorola that the County and the municipalities will need to transition to an 800 MHz as other counties in the state have already done. The cost of the total project countywide is estimated at $10 million.

The Commissioners have looked to the municipalities to help with the costs of purchasing radios while the County works with the 911 Communications Center to put in the infrastructure such as new radio towers at needed locations.

With the Town on the hook, Council President Ray Poparad remarked that he is “not a very happy camper about this.”

“This is mandated. With what the State 911 board receives, they should foot the whole bill but that’s not going to happen. We can’t leave our police and fire without communications. The RDC has stepped up to the plate and has offered to give half,” Poparad said.

At the RDC meeting, non-voting member Brandon Kroft said he previously served on the Chesterton Police and knew there had been talks for a long time on an 800 MHz system.

“We knew we were switching to a bigger system that was more important and that there are areas in the county that really need to be covered,” Kroft said, adding that all communities are trying to come on board.

Ambulance contract

Meanwhile, at the Council meeting, Fire Chief Bill Arney said that the current ambulance contract with Superior Ambulance Services will come to an end on July 1 unless the Town makes a verbal agreement to renew the contract for another year.

Next year is when a new contract will have to be negotiated, Arney said, which will probably see higher costs. The costs don’t affect the Town necessarily as it is for those taken by ambulance, Arney said. The Town probably can’t change the rates because of billing by Medicare and Medicaid, he said.

“When we ran the ambulance system, we had the ability to set our own rate which was a little bit lower,” Arney said. “Next year, I would like to sit down with the Council and talk about the contract when it comes up. Right now, I am okay with it. We are working fine and the ambulance is up 24 hours a day.”

The Council will take a vote on renewing the contract to June 2018 at its next meeting.

Also, Arney and Building Commissioner Randal Lopez in their reports said that projects are picking up in town.

“We are doing a lot of projects digging and trenching as well as stormwater. We’re doing quite a bit in several neighborhoods and on Westport Road. A lot of activity going on,” Arney said.

Meanwhile, theft activity is down, reported Town Marshall Mike Heckman.

Spring cleanup

In other reports, Street Superintendent Pat Melton said his department next month will start organized brush pickup every first and third Mondays.

The mowers and the vacuum are also getting ready and sweeping will take place from April 24 to April 28.

The date for the annual Spring Large Pickup Day is Thursday, May 18.

Melton also told the Council the department has picked up a lot of trash, 48 large bags of it. “It’s terrible. It’s ridiculous. Old Porter is the worst.”

Picnic shelters

The Park Department is preparing for the Rebuilding Together Duneland Work Day on Saturday, April 29, Park Board member Angie Scott told the Council.

A long discussion followed of whether or not the Town could find the time and effort to break up decaying concrete in the picnic shelters for the Work Day volunteers to haul out.

“It would need to be busted up by the 29th so (volunteers) can be prepared to remove it. That would be a huge expense we wouldn’t have to pay for,” Scott said.

The intention then is to replace the old shelter with simpler ones, similar to those at Chesterton’s Dogwood Park and the Westchester Bird Sanctuary, she said.

Council member Kevin Tracy member agreed, “It’s a great opportunity.”

Melton said he wasn’t sure if it was possible to get a backhoe to the locations because of the shelter structures. Poparad and Council member Eric Hull discussed potential solutions but agreed that there is not enough time in the next two weeks for the street department to do the work.

The RTD volunteers will work in other areas of Lakeland Park and help with construction on the stairs down to the lake, Scott said.

Scott reminded the Council that the Park’s Easter Egg Hunt is this Saturday.

Also, the Parks Department is seeking sponsorships for the Footloose 5K event in late June.

“We’re currently short of where we were last year. If anyone has leads on any sponsors, please let the Park Department know,” Scott said.

Child Abuse Prevention Month

The Council in other matters approved a proclamation declaring April Child Abuse Prevention month in Burns Harbor.

The proclamation, read by Tracy, calls “upon all citizens, community agencies, religious organizations, medical facilities and businesses to increase participation in our efforts to prevent child abuse thereby strengthening the communities in which we live.”



Posted 4/13/2017




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