It was a move that
no member of the Chesterton Town Council said they wanted to make but the
four members present all agreed to five-year bond of $1.5 million from the
County to repave town roads before the lead to more expensive problems.
taxpayers will see an increase in their taxes to pay for the bond. An owner
of a home assessed at $200,000 will pay roughly $32.45 a year, while
commercial properties will pay about $32.20 for each $100,000 of value.
The bonds will be
purchased by the Porter County Treasurer’s Office at an interest rate of 2
A public hearing
was held for the ordinance to accept the bond issue. Three citizens
remonstrated having to pay more in taxes and wanted the Council to realize
the effect the move would have, particularly on those residents with fixed
Stanley said his taxes went up by $400 last year and asked what had been
budgeted for the street department and why the town “couldn’t live within
Also complaining of
higher taxes, Valparaiso resident Dennis Byron, who owns buildings on
Calumet Road, asked if the board had considered other measures to pay off
the bonds other than raising property taxes. He asked if the Council had
thought of a vehicle fee so that it could be paid by people in town who use
Commissioner John Schnadenberg said the state has cut its funding as gas tax
revenues have dropped with more fuel-efficient vehicles on the roads. The
department gets by with enough to sustain itself but not enough for road
Council member Jeff
Trout, R-2nd, said that the town has used $200,000 in its allocated income
tax revenue from the county to pay for roads. The Redevelopment Commission
has used money collected in tax increment finance (TIF) districts to pay for
further improvements in those areas.
Town attorney Chuck
Lukmann said of the $1.5 million, $500,000 will be used for roads within TIF
districts or roads connected to it. The remaining $1 million will be a
burden shared by Chesterton property owners.
As for Byron’s
question about a vehicle fee, Schnadenberg said “it’s not a bad idea” but it
is not an option because the law only gives County Commissions the ability
to enact that fee or a large majority of municipalities in a county must
agree to push for it. Schnadenberg said Byron should go to the County
Commissioners if he would like to have a wheel tax.
Redevelopment Commission member Paul Tharp was the only speaker in support
of the ordinance feeling the increase on taxpayers was “not unreasonable”
for what it tried to accomplish. He said the town’s street department “could
not shoulder” the cost of all the road maintenance by itself.
Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, sympathized with the ordinance’s opponents as it
means he too will be paying more in taxes but he and the other Council
members said they don’t have much of a choice in the matter in order to
avoid heftier road costs in days to come.
“If we don’t do it
now, it will be twice as much later. You get to the point where the rubber
meets the road, you’ve got to do something,” said member Jim Ton, R-1st.
Trout said this
past winter’s deep freeze saw “incredible freeze-thaw cycles that did a lot
of damage” and it was “not something that could be controlled.”
“This winter was
really a perfect storm. It exacerbated the need to repair the roads,” he
Ton said that the
board did its due diligence in looking at what would be the least expensive
way to tackle these road issues and he and Trout said Chesterton is not
unique in its dilemma. Other municipalities such as Portage and Griffith
have also taken out bonds for road work.
DeLaney and Ton
said taxes went up last year not because of anything the town did but
because a majority of Duneland voters passed a referendum to give the
Duneland Schools a 22 cent increase in property taxes per $100 of assessed
The last time the
town bonded for street projects was roughly 20 years ago, Schnadenberg said.
The town has 70 miles of road all together , which have a life span of 10-12
Ton, Trout, DeLaney
and Nick Walding, R-3rd, voted yes on the ordinance. Absent Tuesday was
Council member Sharon Darnell, D-4th.
Trout commended the
speakers on their “well thought out presentations” that presented some good
give and take, providing a better understanding of the action the Council
In other business,
the Council decided 4-0 against a request from the Duneland Business
Initiative Group to pony up $300 for DBIG’s 4th of July fireworks show.
Ton said the town
pledged $2,500 in money and in-kind services to the Duneland Chamber of
Commerce’s request for the fireworks at Indiana Dunes State Park and there
wasn’t any money left in the town’s fund. Although no public money could be
used, Ton suggested the Council members could give individual donations from
their own pockets, which is what they did last year.
Also Tuesday, the
Council voted 4-0 to appoint Town Engineer Mark O’Dell as the interim
reports, Police Chief Dave Cincoski said the merger of the Chesterton and
Porter Police dispatch systems will go live at 7 a.m. on Wednesday and he
expects a smooth transition, but extra personnel will be on standby in case
there are problems.
Chief John Jarka said that Engine 512 is out of service temporarily due to a
few bad fuel injectors but parts are on the way to replace them.
he is excited to be using the street department’s new hot patcher, replacing
the broken one that was from the 1970s or 80s. The new one can regulate
temperature, making work a lot easier.
In her report,
Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela said that she has received back less than
200 of the business registration forms that were due to her which is not
even half of the 492 sent out.