Chesterton Tribune



Westport building coming down; memories victim of upgrade cost

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The Burns Harbor Town Council agreed with president Jim McGee’s recommendation and last night voted to tear down the former Westport Community Club building.

Building commissioner Bill Arney was asked to obtain a range of likely costs to demolish and remove the concrete-block structure at the northeast corner of Haglund Road and Indiana 149. Formal bidding may be required.

“It will be a very sad day,” said long-time resident Gayle Van Loon. “There will be a lot of tears.” She asked that notice be given when actual demolition will occur.

Councilman Mike Perrine, who had been an active club member for many years, looked visibly shaken as McGee made the case for demolition. Later, Perrine concurred the building is in sad shape.

The Westport club was founded in 1959 and became a hub of community activity before the town’s incorporation in 1967. Both Westport and the Burns Harbor Lions Club, which also met there, hosted social and civic activities including holiday children’s parties and the popular spring and fall smorgasbords where hopeful election candidates flocked to greet the voters.

The council accepted donation of the building and its 4.7-acre grounds on June 12, 2013 after the club disbanded, in part because the structure --- made available as a rental hall for public and private events --- needed costly maintenance and repairs and no funds were available to do the work.

Burns Harbor began negotiations with Chesterton Pop Warner football to make improvements and lease the site including the building, but McGee said Wednesday the negotiations are no longer ongoing.

McGee said he goes way back with Westport and while it has sentimental value, “The building is too far gone. I think it’s a burden that shouldn’t be placed on the town.” He suggested removing what the town wants and having an auction/sale so members of the public can obtain a memento.

Councilman Gene Weibl said when the town finds the money a new building will be a goal, but right now Westport’s current condition is not very reflective of what the community wants and deserves.

Councilman Jeff Freeze confirmed with Arney that once any improvements would be attempted, the structure would have to be brought up to code including handicapped accessible restrooms and entrances as well as electrical upgrades. Freeze also speculated that the town’s insurance carrier might not even want to insure it.

For the time being councilman Greg Miller said the site can remain as green space.

The 2013 agreement stipulated that the property be used for park and community purposes but if circumstances dictate that it be sold in the future, 50 percent of the proceeds would go to the Burns Harbor Park Board. McGee said it’s too soon to speculate about any future park use there.

Freeze said community members who want to take photos of the building before it’s gone should be allowed to access the property. Resident Bernie Poparad said a nice picture when the building was in good repair should be sought so it can be hung in the town hall with the permanent history of Burns Harbor exhibit.



Posted 9/11/2014




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