Paying an outside
consultant a hefty sum to come up with a revitalization plan for Burns
Harbor proved to be a contentious topic in last year’s town elections,
contributing to the defeat of four Town Council incumbents.
The rift between
the new and the former Council has subsided, it appears, as the Burns Harbor
Redevelopment Commission, made up of the recently elected Council members,
voted unanimously Wednesday to continue the agreement with LiveWorkLearnPlay
at the rate $35,000 per month.
Those voting were
RDC members Ray Poparad, Andy Bozak, Eric Hull, Toni Biancardi and President
Knowing he would
probably take heat from some residents, Rogala read a prepared statement to
shed light on what went into his decision.
eight years (as a resident, volunteer, elected official), I have observed a
town at a standstill, remaining dormant and with little to no observable
progress at all,” Rogala said.
very much believe a reasonable plan was created prior to this council and
commission’s involvement and after very careful consideration, I believe
this plan will not only work towards the goal of continuously enhancing the
quality of life for existing and future residents, employers, and employees
of Burns Harbor, but it will also help us attract visitors, new business and
investment,” he said.
Each of his
colleagues have expressed concerns with LWLP and the question has always
been when and how growth will be coming, Rogala said. After asking these
questions, Rogala said he is confident in the plan’s ideas for
“sustainability” or to make sure future development is continued.
Rogala said that he
is keen on making Burns Harbor more “walkable” by creating walking and bike
paths to encourage those types of travel and reduce vehicle congestion. He
said he wants to get help from the Department of Transportation on a road
diet, where a lane on a multi-lane road is converted to bike lanes or
sidewalks, for the town’s major roadways.
The RDC receives
its funds from the Town’s tax incremental finance district which “is not
truly the Town’s money” as it also belongs to schools, libraries, etc.,
Rogala said. “In support of the county and region, we believe it’s our
obligation to create a sense of place for the region to also visit and
Development and Revitalization Plan and Roadmap Implementation by LWLP is
“the best resource to be able to move the town forward responsibly in
opportune fashion,” Rogala concluded.
None of the other
members added any comments, but former Council member Gene Weibl expressed
his gratitude for the decision.
“You guys took a
very brave step tonight,” he said. “I thank you for it. I pledge my support
to you, so you have that. Many of you realize the pressure you are under
with this decision.”
Former RDC member
Brad Enslen said he appreciates letting the work continue and agreed with
Rogala’s ideas for enhancing non-motorized travel that can connect parts of
town. “It’s a need that’s been there for a long time,” he said.
LWLP will continue
with the implementation phase of its plan. The first thing that will be
moved on is the “pop-up container village” which will have small units for
new businesses, potentially retail outfits and food vendors.
Also Wednesday, the
RDC voted 5-0 to hire Danielle Ziulkowski as its communication manager for
another year. Instead of $65 per hour, Ziulkowski’s agreement was amended to
where she would be paid $50 hourly with a limited number of hours.
Rogala said that
“not many people were happy with the past contract” but his research found
that the average pay for communication managers in the state is between $46
to $52 per hour.
question posed at last month’s RDC meeting, grants developer Tina Rongers
said her and Ziulkowski will work not only with the RDC but with all the
different Town departments to hear their needs and wants.
“We want to bring
to you a targeted mix of projects,” Rongers said.
The scope for
funding opportunities to be sought include those at the regional, state and
federal level, she added.
In other actions,
the RDC unanimously agreed to flow the next installment of TIF money to the
Duneland Schools as part of its ten-year agreement.
The amount stemming
from the December 2015 tax installment is $38,135. The state statute
regulating TIF allocations now permits redevelopment commissions to pass 15
percent of tax revenues on to schools or any educational facility that
offers programs that benefit economic development.
Development Director Joe Rurode said he is pursuing talks with the
Chesterton RDC about being able to piggyback on its plan for a
state-of-the-art fiber optic network. He hopes to have a meeting in the next
month and have more to tell at the March meeting.
Rogala said he’s
had internet connection issues and businesses wanting to move here will be
looking to have reliable, high-speed internet.
Meet and greet
Meanwhile, RDC Toni
Biancardi said the business meet and greet hosted by the RDC will be
Thursday, Feb. 25, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Duneland Falls Banquet Hall.
Invites went out the first of this month, she said.