Chesterton Town Council member Jim Ton got vocal again over the
issue of the proposed banquet center at Indiana Dunes Park on Monday,
expressing dissatisfaction with Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Director of State Parks Dan Bortner’s response to questions about public
input and transparency.
The Council --
which has not taken an official stance on the banquet center -- sent a
letter with its questions on May 26 and received a response from Bortner on
Ton at the previous
Council meeting on July 13 gave the press a summary of the questions and
responses but refrained from making comments, waiting to see if anything
more would be explained at a public meeting held by the Porter County
Visitors Commission on July 16.
“Really nothing had
changed,” Ton said, and he took issue with Bortner’s statement on how public
input has been sought and considered.
To the Council’s
question of how has the DNR responded to concerns of transparency, Bortner
said comment cards were taken at an open house in April.
“That’s really not
the proper way to engage in dialogue,” Ton said.
What Ton hoped to
find out was why the public wasn’t brought in when Pavilion Partners LLC
started on plans for the Pavilion renovation and the banquet/conference
“There was no
vetting of the whole concept before the contract was signed.” Ton said.
Bortner did answer
one of the questions saying that the final concept for the banquet facility
will not be completed for some months and any comments or input should be
emailed to DunesPavilion@dnr.in.gov.
The fact that the
DNR and Pavilion Partners decided to build a banquet center before the
public could have a say in the matter, Ton said, has resulted in “neighbors
turning against neighbors,” which could have been prevented had the DNR
started with letting the public in from the beginning. He describe it as
“dysfunctional decision making.”
Ton clarified that
he was “not slamming” everyone at the DNR and believes it has “many good
workers.” His comments were directed to Bortner and anyone else who gave the
None of the other
Town Council members made any additional comments.
Ton was a member of
a second group called Dunes Pavilion Renaissance which submitted a proposal
for the restoration of the historic Pavilion, which the DNR turned down in
favor of Pavilion Partners.
The DNR has created
a webpage that includes FAQs and documents related to the Pavilion project