New Porter council convenes: Porter town officials were
sworn in and met in an organizational meeting Jan. 1 at the Hawthorne Park
community building. Sharing a lighter moment were (left to right) Town
Council members Paul Childress, Sandy Boothe, President Jennifer Granat,
vice-president Bill Sexton, and Clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy. Absent and
sworn in previously was council member Sandra Snyder, who was on a family
vacation. The community building was decorated for the festivities, which
included a buffet luncheon, and about 100 people attended.
(Tribune photo by Paulene Poparad)
By PAULENE POPARAD
Keenly aware of the desire for positive change town voters indicated they
want, the new Porter Town Council kicked off its administration Thursday by
making it easier for residents to have meaningful input on town business,
and by unanimously ordering town departments to refrain from all
non-essential spending until further notice.
Council President Jennifer Granat, the only member to serve previously, said
public workshops will be scheduled soon to review town finances, which
Granat described as “incredibly tight.”
New Clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy said the town’s $667,000 partial property
tax draw has been received with another $190,000 due possibly in February.
Deputy clerk-treasurer Karen Spanier said the town has an approximately
$764,000 operating balance.
Councilman Paul Childress asked, “Is there a problem here or not?” He said
$300,000 of the money on hand is an inter-fund loan made last month by the
outgoing council that will have to be repaid. Another $100,000 also was
borrowed from a separate town fund in 2001 and never repaid.
Councilman William Sexton said the workshops are needed to determine how
much spendable money will be available, and whether it will be sufficient to
meet the demands of the town, which requires about $100,000 a month to pay
the bills. The next tax draw usually would be received in June.
In a related matter, the all-Republican council unanimously rescinded the
former council majority’s December decision to pay former town building
commissioner Doc Whisler $65 an hour for work related to an ongoing appeal
of a permit he issued for reconstruction of a Porter Beach home. Although
authorized, Spanier said to-date no additional money had been paid Whisler,
who the former council said should be compensated as an expert witness.
Sexton said defending a permit the building commissioner issued should be
part of the description without additional compensation.
Adopted Thursday under unanimous suspension of the rules was the New Year’s
first ordinance revising the council meeting agenda to move audience
participation from the end to nearer the beginning of the agenda, and adding
a slot for comments from the council prior to adjournment.
Public comment was moved up, said Sexton, because under the previous agenda
business was already conducted before the public could provide input.
Childress also said someone who wants to ask a specific question can do so
early now and not have to sit through the rest of the meeting.
Regarding the new council comments portion of the agenda, under the previous
Democratic administration, soundly rejected by voters Nov. 4, the agenda was
closely controlled and council members wishing to speak on other matters
weren’t always recognized.
During public comment Thursday resident Jennifer Klug asked the council to
require like other municipalities do that people must obtain a Porter County
septic permit, where applicable, before being issued a town building permit.
“In the long run it will protect people building houses and the town, too,”
noted Klug. Granat said the council has a list of things to be reviewed, and
the septic permit is a priority.
Klug also asked that the council reconsider the past practice of issuing
badges to the building commissioner and public works director that might be
confused with a police officer’s badge. “Nobody should have badges unless
they’re actually police or the Police Commission,” said Klug. Said Public
Works Director Scott Guy, “I never put myself out there as a police
On behalf of the Porter American Legion Post, Commander Claude Martinez
asked if the group would be allowed continued use of the Hawthorne community
building. He was told they would.
Guy said residents who don’t have a way to discard their Christmas trees may
call his office to arrange pick-up, and Police Chief John Lane said surplus
items will be auctioned off including a backhoe and truck Jan. 10 at the
town auction. A list of items is available at the town hall.
Town residents elected the new Porter council in a landslide, and the fact
so many invested their hopes for the town’s future in its members isn’t lost
Said Childress, “The pressure is very high. I’m expecting everything we do
will be scrutinized to the limit, and that’s a good thing. It’s almost
impossible for us to screw up because 500 people will tell us we did.”
Boothe, too, said she feels the pressures of a new office. “It’s a lot of
work. My eyes are opening up to a lot of problems we do have. It’ll be
scary.” She said her priorities will be extending municipal water and
sewers, and how to finance it.
Sexton said his council is up to the challenges ahead. “It’s a good group.
We have our disagreements but we don’t have fights. We have a civil
After four years on the previous council, often questioning and voting
against the majority’s decisions, Granat said it’s exciting to finally serve
as council president. “It’ll take a while to get used to it, but I’ve got
people here helping me.”
Seen and Heard
HEARD—Burns Harbor Town Council member Bernie Poparad attended the new
Porter Town Council’s first public meeting Thursday and offered its members
Burns Harbor’s cooperation and assistance. “Got any money?” asked Porter
Councilman Paul Childress, prompting laughter. Replied Poparad, “You know
our situation. You can’t get much out of us.” Burns Harbor only now is
rebounding after losing 85 percent of its tax revenue when the former
Bethlehem Steel declared bankruptcy in 2001.