Chesterton Tribune


Future Burns Harbor council to have all five members elected at-large

Back to Front Page





The whole of Burns Harbor will be one voting district for the next Town Council election with five members all to be elected at-large.

Currently, there are three individual wards and two additional council members are elected at-large.

Wednesday, town attorney Bob Welsh said using 2010 census data showing a total population of 1,156 he tried to draw three wards of equal population that didn’t cross census blocks but couldn’t. “Unless all of us are wrong, there’s no way to do it.”

Welsh could draw two wards having about 560 persons each, but council members said they wanted at least three wards.

The town’s largest populations are in Harbor Trails subdivision with 147 persons as of the census date and in the adjacent The Village subdivision with 163. The Village more recently had several apartment buildings occupied and more are planned.

Councilman Mike Perrine said you can’t assume that in four years the town’s growth still will be concentrated in those subdivisions and they would control all five council seats. “I can’t predict and neither can you.” Subdivisions in other areas are being built, and more may be platted in the future, he added.

Councilman Greg Miller said under the current ward/at-large voting system, three persons from one area can be elected and control a council majority now.

Resident Phyllis Constantine said of the state’s redistricting laws, “Why can’t they leave us alone? Why are they making all these rules we have to go by?” Councilman Gene Weibl said each council member took an oath to follow state law, no matter how unpopular.

At one time Burns Harbor had five wards, but Welsh said drawing five wards now is completely out of the question.

Former councilman Ray Poparad said he and fellow member Warren Boo walked the town counting houses the last time a redistricting took place. Welsh explained state laws didn’t change; Burns Harbor’s population changed with the new density in Harbor Trails and The Village presenting an impediment that can’t be overcome to get three even wards.

Councilman Jeff Freeze said his preference is three wards, however, “I’ve looked and looked at the map (and) it just doesn’t add up.” It was suggested as Burns Harbor grows, the town could fund a special census in an off-election year if it appears three or more wards could be created.

Perrine said when the population exceeds 3,500 the town no longer will choose candidates for public office by political caucus, instead having primary election contests. He felt this would occur for the next Town Council races.



Posted 11/15/2012