Chesterton Tribune

Jim Miller takes back June resignation wants to stay as Porter park director

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Porter Park Department superintendent Jim Miller last night rescinded a letter of resignation he previously submitted.

“I want to continue on and serve the people of Porter like I have,” he told the Park Board. After the meeting Miller said, “I didn’t want to retire in the first place” and declined further comment.

Miller has served as park superintendent for 24 years. His wife, Stephanie, who has been park administrator for 20 years, also submitted a letter of resignation made public in June but confirmed Tuesday she hasn’t rescinded hers.

During public comment last night prior to Jim Miller’s announcement, resident Karen Pisowicz spoke. “I think our parks are absolutely gorgeous, used all the time, and I would hope everyone would rethink and not make him do what he’s going to do, Stephanie too.”

Pisowicz’s remarks were greeted with applause from people in the audience.

Former Park Board member Becky Maranto later added, “I want to thank Jim for rescinding his resignation from the Park Department.”

The matter came to light at the June 19 Park Board meeting when member Jessie Campaniello congratulated the Millers on their planned Dec. 31 retirement; Stephanie Miller replied that announcement was premature, and Jim Miller said nothing was firm with him.

However, board president Rondi Wightman said both resignations were accepted at a June 4 executive session.

The Park Board is in the process of researching other park organizational structures, and members are reviewing their department’s employee job descriptions in advance of a meeting to discuss possible changes.

Wightman commented after last night’s meeting, “It’s not job performance at all. (It’s about) how can we take the current positions and change so programming is moved off the board.” She said she is spending 30-40 hours per week related to park programming.

Wightman said while those projects --- festivals, a concert series and the Duneland Seniors group reorganizing among them --- all are good things, new projects are board-driven rather than by staff.

John Beckman formerly was involved with public management for 10 years and currently is spearheading a restoration of the Little Calumet River area north of Porter’s Hawthorne Park.

Last night during public comment he encouraged the Park Board to be progressive and proactive about a possible dynamic change in park management, but he also cautioned that the board would be better off before making major changes to allow park stakeholders to participate and be involved in that process through public informational meetings.

In other business Tuesday:

• Liz Tilden and Leroy Flores were granted board permission to have a large tent erected for approximately one week at Hawthorne for the Oct. 6 Porter’s Perfect Pint festival, and for other daily events and benefits at the park during that time. The approval includes a $450 rental fee for the community building Oct. 6. The board urged the pair to keep the Park Department updated on specific plans.

• The Park Board heard a tentative request to allow parking on vacant park-owned property at Waverly Road and Lincoln Street for May 18, 2013 when the Hawthorne gazebo may be rented for an outdoor wedding. Board members asked for time to get a better idea when planned drainage improvements and trail construction along Waverly, Lincoln and through Hawthorne are slated next spring.

• Wightman said she and board member Patty Raffin recently walked the areas to be disturbed accompanied by town officials. Raffin said the new drainage design is aesthetically pleasing and won’t tear up the park. Public Works superintendent Brenda Brueckheimer said everyone is excited about the revised plans and thanked the Park Board for its patience.

• Wightman previewed the Aug. 29 Health and Wellness Fair at the Hawthorne community building from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. hosted by the Duneland Senior Center. Free screenings, health assessments, and 36 vendors will be on hand; flu shots will be available as well as Fire Rescue information, door prizes and refreshments. “I’m overwhelmed frankly with the response,” said Wightman.

• Stephanie Miller reported the six-week summer children’s park program came in under its $700 budget and saw 84 children ages 5 through 10 registered. The Park Board also appropriated to donations $360 in registration fees collected from 18 children who attended two youth cooking sessions featuring guest chefs, a cook-off and basic kitchen safety.

• Jim Miller said despite this summer’s heat and drought, 27 newly planted trees are doing well at Hawthorne.

• Maranto was granted permission for the Chesterton Pop Warner cheerleading program to use the community building’s lower level for five hours one day between Sept. 10 and 14 to accept delivery and do distribution of cookie dough. A rental fee was waived.

• Beckman of the Izaak Walton League, Porter County Chapter was approved to use a community building room Sept. 15 beginning at 9 a.m. to conduct a program for Scout troops and youth groups.



Posted 8/22/2012