It’s been a little more than a year since the Chesterton Redevelopment
Commission formally made the installation of fiber-optic infrastructure a
The idea is for the commission to use tax increment financing moneys to pay
for a network of fiber-optic conduit--just the sleeve, not the cable
itself--which the town would then lease to fiber-optic providers. The vision
is of a near-future Chesterton becoming the place in Northwest
Indiana for high-tech firms in need of high-speed and -capacity Internet
Or as Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann put it at Monday’s meeting, “Through TIF,
you’ll be able to enhance broadband data reception and ingoing/outgoing
capability with speed unheard of in this area.”
Existing businesses will reap the benefits and new ones looking for the same
slick service will gravitate here, Lukmann predicted.
In the last 12 months, though, the scope of the project has grown, at least
on paper, with the City of Valparaiso taking an interest in fiber optic as
well. “There’s been really good progress and open communication with
Valparaiso,” Lukmann announced, and the possibility is now on the table of
putting conduit in the ground along the whole of the Ind. 49 corridor “and
So the time has come, he told the commission, to resolve a number of issues,
“critical” among them the actual structure of the transaction with the
fiber-optic providers. Some communities in the U.S. have entered into
public/private partnerships, others have found purely commercial solutions,
but what may be best for Chesterton isn’t at all clear at the moment,
Lukmann said. For that reason he recommended that the commission retain the
services of two consultants, Monroe Street Group of Chicago and Bingham
Greenebaum Doll of Indianapolis.
Members voted unanimously to do so, approving a not-to-exceed contract with
Monroe Street Group in the amount of $30,000 and a similar one with Bingham
Greenebaum Doll in the amount of $25,000. “Hiring these consultants will get
us to the point where we’ll have developed technical specs for whatever
route we decide,” Lukmann said.
“In all parts of the country, fiber optic’s become almost essential to
economic development,” Member Jeff Trout remarked after the vote. “A rising
tide floats all boats. It will benefit everyone to have as much fiber optic
in the ground as possible.”
“With fiber optic, we can attract the right sort of companies and
businesses, high-tech firms with good paying jobs,” Member Nick Walding
Added Member Ed Schoenfelt, “This definitely supports the knowledge
Lukmann, while he was at it, observed that members proved themselves wise
when, in formulating the specs for the Ind. 49 utility corridor project a
couple of years ago, they went ahead and added fiber-optic conduit to the
other infrastructure installed under the Toll Road and to the town’s
southernmost corporate limit.
Battery Backed Up Traffic Signals
In other business, Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg made note of
another wise move on the commission’s part: springing for battery back-up
systems for the town’s traffic signals.
When, on Saturday, an errant farmer in Burns Harbor clipped a NIPSCO pole
with his combine, power was lost to about 5,000 customers. Power was also
lost to INDOT’s traffic signals along Ind. 49, causing no little congestion.
But the town’s signals--every one of them equipped with a battery back-up,
at Broadway and South Calumet; at Indian Boundary and North Calumet, Plaza
Drive, Council Drive, and Sand Creek Drive; and at 1100N and 100E--had all
the juice they needed to keep traffic rolling smoothly, Schnadenberg said.
The batteries are good for as long as eight to 12 hours and, once grid power
is restored to the signals, the batteries automatically re-charge, he added.
“From a safety standpoint, what a great thing to have,” Trout said. “No
one’s taking chances trying to cross an intersection because the lights are