Chesterton Tribune

Burns Harbors effort to tap sewer money for the general fund stalls

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Hopes of infusing cash from the flush Burns Harbor sewer fund into the cash-strapped general fund to help retire outstanding sewer bonds appear to have faded.

Wednesday, Town Council member Mike Perrine said while making a sewer payment in lieu of taxes or PILOT isn’t technically dead, “It’s at least in a coma.”

This summer the council discussed whether at least $100,000 of the $750,000 built up in the sewer fund could be transferred to the general fund representing property taxes that would be assessed on the town’s sewage treatment plant if it were in private ownership.

Sept. 8 financial consultant Cender & Company was asked to investigate PILOT, and whether the entire ArcelorMittal steelmaking facility could be designated as a tax-increment financing or TIF district to capture more of future property taxes on improvements in that zone.

At the time, Cender associate Dan Botich said the taxes collected through PILOT have to be based on a reasonable taxation formula and the program wasn’t meant to be a windfall.

Last month, town attorney Bob Welsh said a review short of a full-blown rate study would be needed if PILOT were pursued to assure that the sewer fund wouldn’t be drawn down too far.

No further action on the Mittal TIF has taken place; the town’s Redevelopment Commission hasn’t met in recent months and won’t in December, according to its president.

Fire Territory discussed

Perrine said discussions are ongoing with Chesterton and Porter regarding possible creation of a fire territory that would merge the three individual fire departments.

Perrine asked Burns Harbor residents to investigate the merits of the proposal and what it would mean as far as their own department and the financial tax implications. A fire territory is a separate taxing unit but its backers’ intent has been to reduce the town budgets accordingly.

Alluding to a less-than-favorable reaction, Perrine said he knows his own views but wants to represent the citizens’ wishes. He said a time may come when the council formally asks residents what they think about a fire territory.

Burns Harbor fire chief Bill Arney also has questioned whether his town would benefit from consolidation. Chesterton and Porter officials have discussed the feasibility and cost of a financial study to assess the impact of going to a fire territory.

Few changes for 2011

Citing the good job they’ve done, council president Jim McGee recommended retaining current town department heads for 2011: town marshal Jerry Price, general maintenance/street supervisor Randy Skalku, and fire chief/sanitation superintendent Bill Arney, who also serves as building commissioner.

Vote was 5-0 with councilman Louis Bain present. He was attending his second regular council meeting in nine months. Later Wednesday he said he hopes to have better attendance in 2011 but can’t guarantee it because of work and military obligations.

The council suspended the rules and adopted a 2011 salary ordinance that clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan said gives full-time employees including herself an across-the board $1,500 pay increase. The council did not give itself a raise above its $4,000 annual compensation.

All full-time employees also will receive longevity compensation in the amount of $100 per year worked.

Jordan will make $50,091 a year. Price and Skalku are paid $24.08 an hour or $50,086 based on 2,080 hours in a work year. Arney will receive $12,650 annually as fire chief, $8,000 as building commissioner and $24.08 an hour when performing his duties as sanitary/stormwater superintendent, the latter being paid from the sewer fund.

Police wages range from $20.60 per hour for corporal to $17 an hour for part-time officers; the assistant marshal will receive $1,000 additional. Clerks in town will be paid wages ranging from $17.04 per hour for full-time to $9 for part-time and the Fire Department secretary earns $5,000 per year.

Full-time GM/Street Department employees will be paid $20.11 an hour and part-time $15 per hour. The Plan Commission secretary will receive $5,000 per year based on 12 meetings and an additional $200 per special meeting; the Board of Zoning Appeals secretary receives $2,000 a year and the Sanitation Board secretary $100 per meeting from the Sanitary Fund.

Plan Commission and BZA members each will be paid $500 per year. Park Department salaries will be set under separate ordinance.

Board members named

Voting 5-0 again, the council reappointed Clark Hamilton as a Democratic member on the Park Board, and as his presidential appointment McGee returned Jan Hines as a Republican member of the Plan Commission; both seats are four-year terms.

The council voted unanimously naming attorney Brad Skafish, a Democrat, to the BZA for four years on the recommendation of councilman Cliff Fleming. Skafish replaces Amy Zehner, who voted in favor of a special exception the BZA granted for CR England trucking that is being appealed by the Town Council in court.

Council members McGee and Toni Biancardi and marshal Price unanimously were returned to the Plan Commission as its municipal appointments. The council also voted 5-0 to retain current liaisons to town departments.



Posted 12/9/2010