Chesterton Tribune

Hidden driveways near steel plant prompt US 12 safety review in Burns Harbor

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Judy Kirby said it’s difficult and sometimes even dangerous for her and her neighbors to get in and out of their U.S. 12 driveways near the ArcelorMittal east gate.

Wednesday, she asked the Burns Harbor Town Council for help.

Town officials were directed to contact the Indiana Department of Transportation seeking Caution, Hidden Driveway and Do Not Block Driveway signs, as well as asking INDOT to revisit whether the former stop light at U.S. 12 and Indiana 149 could be reactivated or the road design modified.

In addition, a problem with trains blocking Mittal’s east gate resulting in semi-trucks backing up one-quarter mile to the west three or four times each weekday will be investigated.

Mittal will be approached to see if the steel mill can make internal changes to relieve traffic jams outside its gates.

Kirby said her driveway on the south side of U.S. 12 near Aluminum Welding and The Brown Bag is hard to see so semis don’t slow down when she activates her turn signal. She said she also has to take it on faith when a semi driver motions it’s safe to pull out blind into the westbound lane.

“My jeep vs a semi --- we all know the outcome.”

Town marshal Jerry Price said Kirby and the neighbors are blocked in their own driveways. “It’s a nightmare.” Councilman Louis Bain said if U.S. 12 traffic is backing up to Indiana 149, that’s a significant problem, too.

Said Kirby, “It’s getting insane. It’s never been like that before. I can’t get out, I can’t get in.”

A proposal has resurfaced by others to make U.S. 12 a scenic highway, but town officials said the current traffic problems can’t be minimized or ignored.

Jordan stands her ground

After lagging on the agenda since spring, the council voted to adopt a policy for take-home use of town squad cars by off-duty police officers.

Vote was 3-1 with Toni Biancardi absent due to illness. Bain voted no saying, “I don’t want to penalize a town employee.”

That’s because clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan said she has been directed by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to deduct payroll taxes for officers who receive the benefit of using the cars. Jordan said the council can adopt whatever policy it wants, however, “I am the financial officer and it’s my responsibility to protect the town. Officers will see deductions in their payroll.”

Councilman Mike Perrine said he respects Jordan’s personal integrity.

Perrine suggested and the policy was so modified that officers are considered as being on-duty whenever they’re driving a town squad car as opposed to being on-station and working a scheduled shift; other minor policy changes also were made.

Said councilman Cliff Fleming, “We’ve got a community that could be protected by more (police) cars being around. To have those vehicles more prevalent around town is a benefit.” Council president Jim McGee said some policy needs to be adopted now, even if it’s amended later. “We will not argue with the IRS. We’ll discuss any concerns they have.”

Court hearing moved up?

Town attorney Bob Welsh said he’ll see if he can get a December court hearing moved up to address an expansion of operations the town deems in violation of zoning laws at Scott’s Way on the north side of U.S. 20 east of Indiana 149

Building commissioner Bill Arney said he’s had several complaints that, despite the town Board of Zoning Appeals limiting the business to making repairs only, Scott’s Way is dispatching and parking semi-trucks at the business. Concerns about dispatching operations have been ongoing since early 2010.

Job Steel previously filed a lawsuit against the town when its request to locate a truck terminal at the Scott’s Way location was denied.

Also Wednesday, Jordan thanked Biancardi and park director Kim Burton for their efforts on the annual town picnic Aug. 28, as well as resident Phyllis Constantine for coordinating successful town-wide rummage sales last month, which drew increased crowds.



Posted 9/15/2011