A joint meeting is scheduled June 19 for the Burns Harbor Town Council and
Park Board to discuss taking ownership of the Westport Community Club
property, and to hear public input on how its building and grounds should be
Chesterton Pop Warner football has expressed interest in a joint venture to
use the site as a permanent home for the league under a lease arrangement,
but a formal proposal wouldn’t be made until the town agrees to accept
Town attorney Bob Welsh was asked to prepare a draft transfer agreement
between Westport and the town for review at the June 12 regular council
meeting. A title search, estimated to cost $300, also will be done.
At Wednesday’s monthly meeting, council members weighed whether to take the
property donation from the now-disbanded club and then worry about what to
do with it, or to find out more about the financial impact on town finances
Both Mike Perrine and Jim McGee are council members as well as a community
club officer and board of director, respectively. Neither member recused
himself from the council discussion although McGee did last month.
A question previously hanging over the donation was whether Westport had
outstanding property taxes due. Welsh said he met with Porter County
assessor Jon Snyder who confirmed there are no liens on the property or
taxes due/accruing for 2013 or 2014.
However, Welsh said he was advised that could change at the end of the year
so Snyder recommended making a decision on the property sooner rather than
McGee also said a timely decision is needed. “(Westport) can’t afford to
even pay the electric bill. We’re done.”
Perrine said in recent times private donations have kept the club afloat and
those donations likely could continue for a short time while transfer
details are worked out.
Westport, founded in 1959 as a hub of community activity before the town was
incorporated, has offered to give its dated cement-block building, gravel
parking lot and adjacent vacant land at the northeast corner of Indiana 149
and Haglund Road to the town to be used as park property for community use
under control of the Park Board. All costs related to the transfer would be
incurred by the town.
Council member Greg Miller said the donation could be a great boon to the
town, but Burns Harbor also could run into tens of thousands of dollars to
upgrade the building. The town should be sure it knows what it’s getting
into, he added.
Later, speaking from the audience, former council member Bernie Poparad
supported accepting the donation but suggested first having a building
inspection and determining what it would cost to make it accessible to the
A Pop Warner spokesman earlier indicated the league could use grants,
donations and in-kind services to help upgrade Westport and add football
facilities with adequate parking.
Perrine said the value of the acreage involved is worth a lot more than the
building itself, and his fear is that someone else will buy Westport taking
control away from the town. He noted the Burns Harbor comprehensive plan
includes acquiring Westport, and the town’s capital projects list includes
capital expenditures for its improvement.
Revisited briefly was how much say the Town Council would have over use and
development of Westport if the town owns the property yet the Park Board
Welsh said the council can give guidance in various ways, makes appointments
to the Park Board and controls its budget, but “You can’t just tell them
what to do.”
Council member Gene Weibl said the only issue on the table now is whether to
accept Westport. Uses there can be determined later.
Miller noted if Westport isn’t leased to Pop Warner, it would become park
property and Burns Harbor probably has more park land per-capita than any
other town in Porter County.
Council members emphasized they are not against Pop Warner’s involvement,
only that it’s premature to consider it.