Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Porter parks funding falls short of need; budget approval delayed

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Porter Park Board members deferred action on a 2011 budget proposal Tuesday until they get some answers.

Members agreed to seek information from town clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy and to attend the July 27 Town Council meeting if necessary, even possibly giving notice that the Park Board itself would convene a meeting there to adopt the budget.

Park liaison and Town Council member Jon Granat told the Park Board its 2011 budgets $168,500 bottom line reflects a 2.8 percent increase over this years on the advice of town financial consultant Karl Cender, who believes thats how much state tax officials will allow.

Park Board president Patty Raffin said her department cant be asked to do more with virtually the same dollars.

"We have more things that will be expected of the park with the (hike/bike) trails and development. We cant take on all these obligations and responsibilities and stay within these same parameters," said Raffin, who cited talk of a canoe launch on the north side of Hawthorne Park.

"Were very happy to accomodate the town and its vision is great, but we cant do it without an increase. Were going to need more money how they want us to grow," she stated.

Park superintendent Jim Miller said the department will be hurting desperately if handed another shoestring budget with no adequate growth factor. "If theres a shortcoming (in wages), its just me, myself and I." Miller and Stephanie Miller, the park administrator who handles facilities rentals, are the only full-time park employees.

Park Board member Jessie Campaniello said, "I dont think any of us are comfortable" adopting a budget until more information is in hand.

Jim Miller and Raffin said a huge cash drain next year could be the needed felling of ash trees in Hawthorne Park that appear to be infested with emerald ash borers; Miller said he has a request pending with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for confirmation.

Raffin said it could be $1,500 per tree to remove them, and Miller said about 12 trees each 18 to 24 inches in diameter might be affected. Raffin suggested the park identify the problem trees and draft a plan to address them. "This is an epidemic."

After the meeting Granat said the park could request that the Town Council fund the tree-cutting using discretionary town revenue from the Porter County economic development income tax or CEDIT. Large park projects in the past have been funded with CEDIT money. The Public Works Department is in the process of removing a large, decayed tree along Franklin Street.

In other business, member Rondi Wightman suggested that since the buck stops with the Park Board, it should become more involved in personnel matters to provide a little more transparency.

Said Miller, "Ive been given freedom to hire and fire; if you want to change that, thats fine. We try and do our very best." He noted they advertise actual vacancies and Stephanie Miller said if a seasonal employee does a good job, they are rehired so in those cases no vacancy occurs. The board eventually agreed to research its bylaws to determine if the matter is already addressed.

Also Tuesday, board member Becky Maranto reported on the Park Departments youth cooking classes she recently conducted for 10 students after proposing the new program this spring. "It went very well. They want to do it again." After taking in $550 in donations ($250 from the Kiwanis and $300 from Wightman) and $250 in registration fees, said Maranto, $536 in expenditures were deducted leaving $263 seed money and lots of supplies for the next cooking classes.

Miller announced that Christian Orsborn of Porter, 15, a member of Boy Scout Troop 876 in Michigan City, built and donated 6 picnic tables for the parks as his Eagle Scout project. Two tables are handicapped accessible. Orsborn was commended for his accomplishment.

Stephanie Miller said the parks popular summer program ended Tuesday after children enjoyed a number of activities over several weeks including 30 youth participating in a bike rodeo organized by Porter police officer John Lane. Georges Gyros was thanked for providing food for two picnics.


Posted 7/21/2010




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