Chesterton Tribune



Burns Harbor to accept old Westport community building and land

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The Burns Harbor Town Council opened Wednesday’s meeting, then member Jeff Freeze immediately moved to accept the disbanded Westport Community Club’s donation of a clubhouse and 4.7 acres of land at the northeast corner of Indiana 149 and Haglund Road.

Town attorney Bob Welsh explained the club would deed the property to the town, the town would pay all transaction costs, and the land is to be used for park and community purposes but if circumstances dictate that it be sold in the future, 50% of the proceeds would go to the Burns Harbor Park Board.

When a resident from the audience tried to comment, president Jim McGee called for the vote; it was 5-0 to accept. He and member Mike Perrine both prefaced their votes by declaring for the record that each has an affiliation with the community club.

Members later said what to do with the property and who will administer it hasn’t been decided. As for now, “The council is in complete control,” said McGee, who pledged to keep the public informed.

Chesterton Pop Warner football has proposed Westport become the group’s permanent home under a long-term lease with offers of donations and labor to help upgrade the dated clubhouse and grounds.

Spokesman Tom Troy, accompanied by Pop Warner parents and children in the audience, was encouraged by the vote. “Things are moving slowly, but they’re moving in the right direction.” He noted commitments are already coming in and Pop Warner plans a silent auction next month to raise funds for equipment and possible Westport renovation.

The council was in receipt Wednesday of three letters from residents regarding Westport: one favored the land acquisition and youth activities, one opposed football and new parking lots, and a third supported the takeover but not football.

After the meeting Freeze said, “I’m a strong advocate for a youth sports league here to add a new element to our community.”

He also said there was no final copy of the takeover agreement read by Welsh, but the council’s concerns were covered in the draft so as long as the title clears, the property transfer is a done deal.

Freeze acknowledged sentimentality likely played a part in the council’s decision to accept Westport. It was founded in 1959 as the hub of community activity before the town’s incorporation. That was another era, said Freeze; society’s changed and so has today’s use of the Westport property.

He said costs involved with the takeover aren’t yet known, but the residents are better off having the town acquire the site rather than having it sold to someone else.

Troy’s group and several others were present for what was intended to be a special council meeting at 6 p.m. to discuss acquiring Westport. An 8:15 p.m. special meeting also was scheduled yesterday with the Park Board to discuss Westport uses.

Neither took place as the required legal notice was prepared but inadvertently not sent or posted. McGee and clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan apologized for the inconvenience.

Last month the council set a joint June 19 meeting with the Park Board to discuss Westport, but that wasn’t mentioned Wednesday. McGee asked for Westport comments from the audience at the meeting’s conclusion, but the only one dealt with who would administer the site. Westport’s original request was that it be administered by the Park Board.

Today, Park Board member Jennifer Barnes said her board has several questions and concerns and thought they’d get to discuss them with the council but hasn’t. In the absence of any information, she’s not sure what the Park Board’s next move is. As for Pop Warner, “I don’t think our town is ready for welcoming such a large amount of people into this (Haglund Road) area.”

In other business Wednesday, approved on a 5-0 vote was a five-year tax abatement on $155,000 in new personal property to be installed by Indiana Flame Services at ArcelorMittal Steel. During a public hearing, no one commented. IFS local attorney Greg Babcock said the lost property taxes to taxing units will be minimal.

Also Wednesday:

*Councilman Gene Weibl thanked building commissioner Bill Arney for enforcing fencing requirements for pools to protect the town’s children.

* Arney said building permits are on the rise, and 13 violations for tall grass were written. As fire chief, he reported 34 fire runs and 28 EMS calls during May, and that children can sign up now for the July 25 and 26 fire camp.

* Town marshal Mike Heckman said last month his department responded 397 incidents; five vehicle crashes (three property damage, two personal injury); 11 arrests; 77 tickets issued and 119 written and verbal citations given.

* Street superintendent Randy Skalku asked residents not to mix construction debris with brush pick-up as it can’t go through the brush chipper.

* Park Board members said the Lakeland Park beach is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and the first children’s day camp/art camp starts Monday.


Posted 6/13/2013