By KEVIN NEVERS
The Chesterton Town Council
is not yet prepared to give Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela guidance on
raises for municipal employees in 2019.
At their meeting Monday
night, Kuziela asked members, as she begins to prepare next year’s budget,
what percentage of raise she should “shoot for.”
Members, however, begged
off for the moment. “I’d like to consider that, rather than come up with a
number right now,” replied Member Jim Ton, R-1st. “I don’t want to start
throwing percentages around without due consideration.”
In April the council
unanimously approved across-the-board raises of 4 percent for all employees
not in the Police or Fire departments. Police officers and firefighters
received variable raises according to rank, in an effort to align take-home
more nearly with that paid by other municipalities in this “market area,”
that is, Porter, Valparaiso, and Portage.
Those raises were made
possible by a number of moves:
* An increase in the
monthly brush and leaf collection fee, as assessed on sanitary sewer bills,
from $1 to $2.
* An increase in the
dedicated property-tax rate used to fund Cumulative Capital
Improvement--typically used for technology acquisition--from $0.0029 per
$100 of assessed valuation to $0.0059, to offload some of those acquisitions
from the General Fund and clear space for salaries.
* Dipping into the town’s
share of revenues from the state cigarette tax and the state riverboat tax.
* And a “payment in lieu of
tax” from the Chesterton Utility. As a public utility, the Chesterton
Utility does not pay property taxes but under state law a municipality may
collect from a utility an annual amount equivalent to what it would pay in
property taxes were it a private entity.
In other business, members
voted unanimously to approve a settlement agreement with Chesterton Police
Cpl. Joe Kantowski, who was accused by his wife, on Sept. 17, 2015, of
pointing a handgun at her during an argument in their kitchen about her
infidelity. In March a jury acquitted Kantowski of the criminal charge but
he was still facing a disciplinary hearing before the Police Commission and
has been on unpaid administrative leave from the CPD since Sept. 23, 2015.
Under the terms of the
settlement, Kantowski will receive $20,560 in back pay, while he has agreed
to resign his position and release the town from any further liability in
Meanwhile, members voted
unanimously to declare surplus the town’s electric “Think Car,” which the
not-for-profit South Shore Clean Cities donated to Chesterton some time ago.
Town Manager Bernie Doyle
told the council that after several years of service, during which time the
Think Car “saved us quite a bit of money,” it “started failing on us,” and
is now “nonfunctioning.”
Doyle did say that the
Michigan City Police Department has a Think Car of its own, and that it
would be able to cannibalize Chesterton’s for spare parts. The council was
happy to pass the vehicle on to the MCPD.
Art Fair Banners
Members also voted
unanimously to authorize the organizers of the Chesterton Art Fair--Aug. 4-5
in Dogwood Park--to place banners promoting the event on East Porter Ave.
and at the intersection of North Calumet Road and Indian Boundary Road,
starting on July 18, provided that the Duneland Chamber of Commerce has
changed its plans to place its own banners at those locations during that
The Chamber was originally
authorized to place its banners to promote Party in the Park, also scheduled
for Aug. 4, but has since decided to merge that event with the Taste of
Duneland--formerly organized by the Duneland Business Initiative Group--on