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New Burns Harbor Council sticks with switch to primary elections

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Differing opinions on whether Burns Harbor should switch to primary elections were heard before the Town Council voted 4-1 to accept the change.

At its meeting Wednesday, the Council gave second reading on an ordinance to adopt a primary election system for town elections, eliminating the need for conventions to nominate candidates.

The ordinance was suggested by the previous Town Council which in December voted 5-0 to move to primary elections. Towns with population under 3,500 residents are by state statute to hold conventions in a contested election unless the Town Council passes a measure establishing primaries.

The push to transition to primaries began after last August’s Democrat convention where participants were basically shut in the Fire Department for three hours on a muggy summer’s day.

New Council President Ray Poparad said the residents he’s spoken to say they wish to hold on to conventions because the candidates are given time to speak their views to the voters prior to voting. He also argued holding a primary would mean higher costs for the Town.

From the audience, resident Phyllis Constantine said the weather conditions were not the fault of those holding the convention and lodged her opinion that “our town’s not big enough for a primary.”

Council member Eric Hull said there was confusion among younger voters about the process of the convention and felt they were more familiar with a primary election format. “I believe it’s a good way moving forward,” he said, adding that the previous Council also shared that view.

Concurring was Council member Andrew Bozak who said the younger voters didn’t like having to be “locked in” at the convention as some had jobs to get to.

Resident Sarah Oudman said she favored primary elections because more employers are willing to give workers time off to vote.

All Council members including Marcus Rogala and Toni Biancardi voted in favor of the ordinance except Poparad, who dissented.

The next town election will be in 2019.

The Council unanimously approved second reading on an ordinance amending the definition of an assembly for the Town to better oversee public gatherings.

An ordinance amending text in the Town’s Sewer Rate ordinance will be kicked back to the sanitation board for it to discuss language regarding deposits.

Appointments

Reorganizing for the year, the Council named appointments to various Town boards.

For the Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals, Poparad selected Democrat Gordon McCormick as his presidential appointment. The Council voted 5-0 to appoint Republican Krista Tracy to the Plan Commission.

Also the Council appointed Republican Kevin Tracy and Democrat Timothy Minier to the BZA.

Chosen to serve on the Park Board by the Council were Democrat Kyline Tumblin, Republican Amanda Sucku, and Democrat Angie Scott.

Constantine was picked by the Council to serve as the Town’s representative on the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission.

Fire report

In reports from department heads, Fire Chief Bill Arney said the Fire Department responded to 23 calls in December with 23 hours and 25 minutes on-scene for emergency calls. There were 58 training hours with 6 duty hours for a total of 64 man hours. Fire vehicles traveled a total of 1,428 miles.

Arney provided an end-of-the-year report to the Council for 2015. A total of 399 calls were responded to, 232 hours and 47 minutes were spent on calls, 321 duty hours, 946 training hours for a total of 1,267 man hours. November was the busiest month with 45 hours on duty. Vehicles traveled a total of 22,740 miles last year.

Also, Arney said the town has received a $10,000 portion of a grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to acquire new air packs. The grant came through the Portage Fire Department.

Arney said he will try for a second grant that would assist in replacing a water tanker.

As Building Commissioner, Arney said five building permits were issued. The building department made eight inspections and issued one violation.

Town Marshal Mike Heckman showed up later to the meeting but no police report was read aloud. Bozak said he and Heckman are working on the Police Department’s Facebook page to get more involved with the public and “help catch bad guys.”

Bozak said Heckman is interested in asking the Council to consider raising the hourly pay for some of his deputy positions. Poparad asked that the request be put on the agenda for the Council’s meeting in February.

Town auction

As liaison to the Street Department, Poparad said he’s looked through equipment and noticed a lot of “obsolete (items) not being used” and proposed having a town auction in the next few months.

He asked for all department heads to check for any outdated equipment that could be put up for auction.

Parks Foundation

In another matter, Biancardi said she wishes to start up a 501c3 foundation for the Burns Harbor Parks, similar to Valparaiso and Portage, which can collect tax deductible donations on cash and accept land.

The Council agreed it is something to look into as it is likely to raise more money for the parks.

Rogala, who is liaison to the Parks Department, said the route for the Duneland Y’s Duneland Race Series through the town has been approved. The race will be Saturday, Feb. 27.

This Saturday, the parks will be hosting Coffee and Canvas at Lakeland Park from 1-3 p.m., he said.

Shooting range

Before adjourning, Poparad said after reading the estimate of costs to demolish and remove the former police firing range, he advised that it is best not to move ahead.

But Constantine asked if the range could be opened again so that residents could take classes on how to properly use a firearm.

Poparad said the Town would face too many regulations and costs to do that and, given the complaints from residents when it was open, feels adamantly it should remain closed.

“The cost would be astronomical. To not disturb it costs nothing,” he said.

Poparad did ask that brush nearby be cleaned up by the street department.

In other business:

-- The Council extended its congratulations to Officer Tim Lucas for being the top police officer in the County in making DUI arrests.

-- The Parks Department Donation fund accumulated $26,688 from last year’s events such as the Footloose 5k, Pumpkin Dash 5k and also the brick sales for the walk front of Lakeland Park’s gazebo. The funds will be returned to the parks to hold events for this year.

-- Donations for the Fire Department reached $1,671 last year. The Council agreed 4-0 to accept the 2016 Fire Service agreement. Recusing himself from voting was Rogala, who is a member of the Town’s fire service.

 

 

Posted 1/14/2016

 

 
 
 

 

 

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