Describing it like “a dragon on a nest of gold,” Burns Harbor Town
Councilman Mike Perrine pitched several ways Wednesday to tap $750,000 in
accumulated sanitary-sewer revenue for other town uses.
The town Redevelopment Commission has been discussing whether to designate
the ArcelorMittal steel plant a new tax-increment financing or TIF district
to capture more future property taxes there, alone or in combination with
refinancing an outstanding $3 million in sewer bonds that will be retired in
Perrine said while he didn’t favor tiffing the entire Mittal mill, he wants
to shift some of the town’s approximately $775,000 annual sewer-bond payment
to the Sanitary Board.
Currently all the Redevelopment Commission’s $300,000 income goes to debt
service and the nearly $475,000 bond balance is being covered by property
taxes or cumulative funds.
Burns Harbor residents in single-family units generally pay $40.75 a month
in sewer fees and larger users a multiple of that base fee. The town owns
its own sewage treatment plant located at Mittal Steel.
Clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan said the council currently could but doesn’t
have the Sanitary Board, comprised of council and citizen members, pay
several sewer-related costs and salaries now offset by the general fund. She
also said if both boards agree, the town could tax its own treatment plant,
then have the sewer fund pay the bill.
The council asked Cender & Company of Merrillville, hired last night as the
town’s new financial advisor, to research that possibility known as payment
in lieu of taxes (PILT).
Dan Botich of Cender also was asked to prepare for the Sept. 21
Redevelopment Commission meeting a likely tax impact for Burns Harbor and
overlapping taxing units if Mittal is placed in a TIF.
Perrine said PILT might be a way to funnel $100,000 or $200,000 into the
general fund for deferred capital improvements, but Botich said PILT
payments have to be based on a reasonable taxation formula.
Perrine said it’s not fair for the sewer fund to sit there getting fatter
when the general fund, which finances basic town services, is strapped for
cash. He noted the outstanding bond issue was for installation of a
town-wide sewer system so sewer revenue rightfully should help pay for it.
Councilman Cliff Fleming cautioned that the sewer fund should be left with
adequate reserves erring to the high side. Jordan said the fund has been
used by the town to borrow operating money while awaiting late Porter County
Perrine said if PILT is used and an unforseen sewer calamity would occur,
sewer rates could be increased but the new sanitary system is well
With president Jim McGee voting, the council agreed 3-0 to authorize Cender
to spend up to $1,700 for answers on the Mittal TIF and PILT. Council
members Toni Biancardi and Louis Bain were absent.
In a related matter, former council member Myrtle Zehner suggested the town
annex NIPSCO’s Bailly Generating Station if Burns Harbor needs more money.
Fleming said it’s been discussed over several months. Perrine said under
Indiana’s frozen levy, town tax revenue couldn’t increase but the tax rate
would decrease, however, that may not be enough of an incentive to create
ill will with the town of Porter, which has received annual payments from
NIPSCO for services provided rather than attempt annexation.
In other business during the almost two-hour meeting:
•The council agreed to remove from the agenda whether to redistrict town
wards. Perrine, who initially asked an ordinance be prepared, said
southernmost Ward 3, where several subdivisions are under construction,
could be split in two. Fleming suggested waiting until the 2010 census
results are posted next year. Burns Harbor has three wards and two at-large
•Deferred was action on town marshal Jerry Price’s request to begin allowing
off-duty officers to take town squad cars home. Price also commended the
Porter County Commissioners for taking preliminary action to ban synthetic
marijuana, which he described as “some bad stuff".
•Price said in August the Police Department had 514 calls to service,
responded to nine accidents (one a personal injury), made 17 arrests (all
misdemeanors), wrote 102 tickets and 172 verbal or warning tickets.
•A proposed public-assembly ordinance based on the Town of Porter’s was
referred to the Burns Harbor Advisory Plan Commission for comment. The
commission meets Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.
•After a less-than-enthusiastic reaction, fire chief Bill Arney reconsidered
his request that the Burns Harbor Volunteer Fire Dept. Inc., a separate
entity, allow a contracted photographer to solicit door-to-door as a fire
•The council approved spending $787 so the Fire Department can receive
$7,869 from the National Park Service for new pagers and portable radios.
Last month firefighters spent 115 training hours, 86 volunteer hours on-call
at the station, and responded on-scene for 16 hours 23 minutes at 25 calls.
•Tickets are available at the fire station for the department’s annual
spaghetti dinner there Oct. 9 from 4-7 p.m. Tickets are $6, $7 for carry-out
and children 3 and under eat free.
•It was announced that the Town Council will conduct a closed executive
session Friday at 1 p.m. at the town hall to discuss litigation. A public
hearing on the 2011 budget will be Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.
•Jordan said the Westchester Township History Museum in Chesterton is
readying a fall exhibit on the history of Burns Harbor.