Chesterton Tribune

Community senior citizens getting organized at Porter's Hawthorne Park

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Duneland-area seniors are making great strides in organizing a new fellowship/activity group at Hawthorne Park.

Porter Park Board president Rondi Wightman reported Tuesday an open house and membership drive are planned for Jan. 25 at the Hawthorne community building from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The seniors group will meet every Wednesday of the month during those hours; speakers, activities, informational presentations and hands-on seasonal projects are being planned as well as possibly a walking club. Wightman said contact has been made with the St. Patrick Church seniors club for hopefully some joint activities and even daytrips to places of interest.

Wightman said she's confident in the temporary leadership team chosen by the Duneland seniors to get the group organized. Initial dues will be $10 per member to help offset expenses, and several already have joined.

"I do think there's a huge interest and that they'll make it their own," Wightman told fellow Park Board members.

She was re-elected as president to lead the board in 2012, member Jessie Campaniello was elected vice-president, and new member Nikki Crist was welcomed. Patty Raffin rounds out the board. It also was the first meeting for Town Council member Rob Pomeroy, the Park Department liaison.

Voting 4-0 the board retained park superintendent Jim Miller, in his 23rd year with the parks, and Stephanie Miller as park administrator and Park Board secretary.

Park pick-up parked

After an extended discussion the board voted 4-0 on Campaniello's motion to direct Miller not to drive a park pick-up truck home except at his discretion when a snow event is predicted. Miller plows the town hall and police station parking lots in addition to the park properties.

Raffin had made a motion to postpone a decision until the Feb. 21 meeting but that died for lack of a second.

Wightman brought up take-home use of the truck because last month Miller presented a list of year-end transfers including one for $1,400 to replenish the fuel line item, which was in the red. Miller said 2011 saw high pump prices but he can't stop doing work that needs to be done.

He also noted taking the truck home 3 miles each way, rather than driving his personal vehicle to work and back, accounts for only about $300 per year in fuel yet Miller said he saves the department much more in other ways elsewhere in the budget.

Wightman said the Park Board owes it to the town and to the public that its money is spent wisely. Raffin said the board has to be careful to avoid overages in general. Crist suggested Miller keep mileage logs like the Porter Fire Department does.

In another Miller matter, the board voted unanimously to expand the hours that Stephanie Miller is available to the public for park bookings and questions; her office at the Hawthorne community building will be open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on a trial basis until April.

Miller said she typically is present Fridays when the building is rented but is busy helping renters; Crist said possibly Friday hours by appointment is an option after the trial period.

Miller gave the Park Board detailed reports comparing 2011 rental of park facilities to the previous 10 years including income and usage. June and July were the busiest rental months.

Skaters await prolonged freeze

The Park Board authorized the purchase of approximately 100 hay bales to border a planned ice-skating rink at Hawthorne; spare bales will be used for seating.

Wightman said she was advised the town's insurance carrier won't require skaters to sign liability waivers as long as the park sponsors the rink as a free activity. Meanwhile, she said the board is merely waiting for the winter weather to cooperate.

In other business, the Park Board agreed to research how other departments charge non-profit organizations for use of park facilities, and how other departments are structured and operated.

Wightman said as Porter expands its own park programming, personnel and budgets need to keep pace. Raffin said it will be good to research what some larger towns/cities do to understand Porter's future needs.

Once each board member talks to representatives from other communities, a workshop will be scheduled to review the findings.

In other business Tuesday:

An appreciation event is planned for March 18 to thank volunteers and friends of the parks.

Jim Miller said he'll bring an updated GoogleEarth map of Hawthorne Park to a board meeting so members can have a better overview of where a planned memorial garden and other improvements can go.

Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. was set as the inaugural meeting of Bud's Buddies, the new friends of Porter Parks group. Wightman encouraged anyone with an interest in park facilities and programming to join, and to contact 219-617-1136 for more information.

Jim Miller said he's clearing out and mulching a 100-yard by 25-yard strip of overgrown brush north of Kids Cove in Porter Cove Park. "If kids wander off into that area, parents can see them and they're not in the woods or poison ivy."

Joel Pisowicz said even in the snow groups are using the new disc golf course on the east side of Hawthorne, and he's anxious to help senior citizens learn to play the course.

Board members authorized Jim Miller to arrange for installation of electric service to the new pole barn; $1,500 for materials was budgeted.



Posted 1/18/2012