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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.