Chesterton Tribune

 
 

BZA OKs Duneland Schools wellness center; Lamar sign hearing March 28

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Duneland School Corp. wants to be better stewards of the community’s tax dollars by cutting its healthcare costs, speakers said Thursday.

Duneland sought and was granted a use variance from the Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals that will enable renovating a portion of the Instructional Materials Center at 411 S. 5th St. into a primary/preventive-care wellness center for the schools. Vote was 5-0.

If the new facility would have been in place in 2011, Duneland would have saved about $450,000 in health-related costs, assistant superintendent David Pruis told the BZA.

Two conditions were placed on BZA approval: that up to 2,300 square feet of the 5,700 square-foot building could be devoted to medical needs, and an operating security system has to be in place at the time an occupancy permit is issued.

The balance of the IMC building, erected in 1953 by the Lions Club and purchased by the school in 1968, will be used for Duneland storage.

A use variance is needed for the project because the site is in a Residential-2 zoning district. Attorney Greg Babcock representing Duneland said the Lions building predated Chesterton zoning regulations but it always has been a good neighbor. During a public hearing Thursday, no one spoke other than Duneland School Board president Mike Trout in support.

Novia CareClinics of Indianapolis will manage and operate the new facility. Joe Wright of Novia said patients can make appointments between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. at their convenience, but the facility will be open only about 20 hours per week with some limited Saturday hours.

Pruis said although Duneland is not a member, it is partnering with the Porter County Insurance Trust on the project allowing member schools’ eligible employees, retirees and dependents to use the facility as well as Duneland’s.

Architect Bob Gerometta explained the IMC will get a facelift including a covered canopy entrance, patient waiting area and receptionist station, exam rooms, limited laboratory facilities, medical storage/records, staff lounge and a future area for physical therapy.

At its last meeting the School Board authorized soliciting bids for the renovations --- contingent on BZA approval first --- with plans to accept a bid next month. “We weren’t taking this for granted,” Trout assured the BZA.

Wright explained the wellness center is free to participants and no cash will be on hand; it is for primary care, limited laboratory testing, chronic-disease management and promoting healthy lifestyles only. No emergency patients will be seen.

BZA member Thomas Browne expressed concern over the proximity of Chesterton Park across the street from the IMC, saying anything the board can do to assure the safety of the neighbors and people in the park should be considered.

Member Sig Niepokoj inquired whether a security alarm system would be in place. Member Jim Kowalski said it’s in everyone’s best interest to have one. After discussion the board made it a condition of approval one must be installed.

Browne inquired what medications will be onsite. Wright said there won’t be narcotics, and commonly prescribed medications in pre-packaged generic form will be securely stored. Duneland director of support services Greg Lindy told the board multiple security cameras will be in place, and building entry will be restricted.

Will HIV testing and treatment be done at the site, asked Browne? Wright said it will be up to the attending physician. All medical waste will be handled securely and vendors contracted to remove biohazards, he added.

The board noted an acceptable parking plan has been designed for the health center. That issue came up during a Jan. 24 preliminary hearing.

Billboard hearing Mar. 28

The BZA conducted a brief preliminary hearing on the request of Lamar Outdoor Advertising for four variances that would allow replacing an existing sign approximately 465 feet north of Porter Avenue on the east side of Indiana 49 with a larger, updated LED version.

Lamar asked last year to upgrade the billboard but pulled the petition before a decision was made.

Company representative Shawn Pettit said Thursday a lighting analysis was done in the interim to confirm Lamar’s belief the LED sign will not cause glare to distract drivers. Last year Chesterton police chief Dave Cincoski expressed reservations on that front.

Thursday, town building commissioner Dave Novak said Cincoski still has the same concerns. Pettit offered to do additional lighting studies prior to the public hearing, which was set for Mar. 28. Lamar also has agreed to place several conditions on approval if the variances are granted.

Attorney Terry Hiestand, representing landowner Smith Family trusts where the sign will be located, gave the BZA copies of studies not presented last year showing the benefit of LED technology, including for Amber Alerts and emergency notification to the public.

A second public hearing was set next month for Craig and Rebecca Rothman, who seek a variance to legalize a 12-foot by 12-foot garden shed built without a building permit and within 5 feet of a side lot line at 324 Jefferson Ave.

At the meeting’s conclusion when all petitioners had left, member Fred Owens and Browne said they both will be absent Mar. 28. BZA attorney Julie Paulson said that means all three members present must agree on a vote, or vote to continue any matter without a decision.

Some boards offer the petitioner the option to postpone a public hearing if only three board members will be in attendance.

In other action, the BZA dismissed the 2012 petition of Johnson Automotive, 301 N. Calumet Ave., for a sign variance. No one had attended the last two meetings to explain the request.

 

 

 

Posted 3/1/2013