By PAULENE POPARAD
Enough talk. It’s time for action, said Porter Town Council members at their
As it did before the Chesterton Town Council on Monday, the Duneland-area
drug problem dominated discussion in Porter, too. And Chesterton council
members Robert Crone and Mike Bannon were there to listen and participate.
As it was before in Chesterton, whether each town should develop its own
initiatives was debated in Porter, too. The majority of the Porter council
supported a combined effort including the towns of Burns Harbor and Dune
Acres and, most importantly, they said, the Duneland School Corp., none of
which were represented Tuesday.
Citing the School Board’s absence at both drug-awareness discussions, Porter
resident Trudi Gallagher said voters need to let the elected School Board
know their absence is unacceptable. As a parent, “(Duneland) owes me a
drug-free environment,” said Gallagher.
Porter council member Sandy Boothe agreed the schools need to be part of the
Porter resident William Cantrell, a former Union Township School Board
member, said schools are a reflection of the community. Until adults clean
up their act, kids can’t be convinced the community is serious about not
doing drugs, he noted
Porter Councilman Paul Childress said Duneland schools need to be an equal
partner in the anti-drug effort and, so far, that hasn’t happened.
Porter council President Jennifer Granat said the on-again, off-again
Tri-Town Committee of Chesterton, Porter and Burns Harbor might be the
vehicle to create a permanent, action-oriented coalition that attacks the
drug problem on several fronts.
“Would Chesterton be opposed to a Tri-Town meeting?” she asked. Replied
Bannon, “I would welcome anybody from anywhere to get active and involved
and give us ideas. Any place, any time.”
Bannon said Chesterton plans to schedule a second open forum to discuss the
drug crisis in the near future, but he also wants to talk privately with
high school students over a pizza to get their input, too.
Bannon clarified his statement Monday that seemed to indicate he wanted
Chesterton to deal with the drug problem itself. Bannon said his point was
that he didn’t want to push the matter onto another level of government or
create new bureaucracies. “My comments were not an effort to dissuade
cooperation,” he stressed.
Crone, Chesterton council president, proposed a tri-town “take back our
kids” rally with recovering addicts, judges and members of the Porter County
Drug Enforcement Task Force as speakers.
Porter Councilman Bill Sexton said Duneland has the opportunity to come
together as a community. “We all have great ideas. Let’s combine them.”
Granat said by working with a larger group, Porter is not passing off its
responsibility to others. “We want the town to take a very active role in
this. We’ve got to start working quickly to put some of these ideas into
action.” She called for the Porter Police Commission to reactivate its
reserve officer program, for the new Porter Explorer cadet post to carry out
anti-drug activities, and for the town’s Police Department to be more
visible in the neighborhoods and to do more outreach, especially in the
Another goal, said the council, is that the www.townofporter-in.com website
soon will be redesigned to offer resources and contacts for parents and
addicts seeking to get clean and stay drug-free. A concern raised by the
public Monday was that this information isn’t shared or made as available as
it should be.
Porter Police Commission member Linda Hodges said, “The main thing is we
have to look at this with open eyes. We cannot just say this doesn’t exist.
It’s been going on too long. I was told if we build the new high school we
won’t have drugs. That’s just preposterous.”
Early intervention is needed, Hodges added, to deter youths from starting
down the addiction path by using alcohol and marijuana.
Porter resident Paul Ulrich is a 28-year veteran of law enforcement, 19 of
them spent fighting illegal drugs. “I really have to commend this community.
You’re really ahead of the game. There’s communities still in denial,” he
told his council. Nevertheless, anti-drug efforts need to re-invent their
message every year, said Ulrich; the Red Ribbon and Just-Say-No campaigns
have lost their impact.
Ulrich said he’s a charter member of Porter County’s Community Action Drug
Coalition formed in 1998. In the long term, the group is raising money to
build a badly needed local drug-treatment center. In the short term, CADC
has a speakers’ bureau, said Ulrich, who’s made hundreds of presentations on
the drug topic himself. Granat said such programs may prove beneficial for
Porter council member Sandra Snyder called for Porter to create a
municipal/citizen task force rather than waiting for a larger,
multi-jurisdictional group to be formed. “It’s words, words, words and no
solutions here,” said Snyder. “We need some action.”
She suggested a multi-pronged approach to combat the frustration,
helplessness and discouragement she’s sensed. “It is the major
responsibility of parents and families to keep kids away from drugs, and
it’s the major responsibility of government to keep drugs away from kids,”
To that end, she proposed giving Porter police the tools to vigorously
enforce drug laws, starting an anonymous tip line with substantial rewards
upon arrest and conviction for drug-related crimes, and agressively
petitioning the courts seeking decisive and thorough punishment for drug
Snyder said the community has drug-free kids, borderline kids who may take
drugs, and full-fledged drug abusers. Whether public, private or
faith-based, intervention and rehabilitation should be made available, she
added, as well as interfacing with youth to let them know we care.
“I can’t imagine the hurt of a child on drugs. It must be horrific,” said
Snyder, the mother of four grown children. She said schools should encourage
positive peer pressure and get athletes involved in the anti-drug message.
Granat said if each town goes its own way, “I don’t want to keep having the
same discussion. We could lose a child in that time.” Childress said no
matter what the community does, “We have to realize we will lose some people
here. Unless they are willing to say ‘I need help,’ there’s nothing we can
do for them.” If they do seek help, he added, a plan should be in place to
Childress said too many expectations are being placed on creating a task
force for fear the impression will be given “now we’ve assigned it to them
and the problem’s solved.” He and resident Bruce Snyder called for stricter
Porter Sgt. Todd Allen, pitch hitting for out-of-town Police Chief John
Lane, said their department has a zero tolerance policy regarding drugs and
has been making more arrests. After that, “I have no control over the
judicial system,” said Allen. Ulrich predicted the methamphetamine problem
will intensify in this area.”
Childress and Sexton supported a suggestion made Monday that elected
officials in the Duneland area go door-to-door taking the anti-drug message
directly to their constituents. “How much of an impact would it make if
councilpersons from three towns show up at your door?” asked Sexton. “We did
that to get elected. We can do that to stop the drug selling and abuse.”
Granat said grass-roots efforts can be very effective.
Monday, Childress announced he will require drug testing of all employees at
his Splash Down Dunes water park in Porter this year. Ulrich said he
supports mandatory, random drug testing for administration, teachers, staff
and students in schools. “It’s distasteful to some but it works,” he noted,
adding that new technology using hair and saliva makes the procedure less
Porter Public Works Director Scott Guy said a community needs activities for
its youth so they won’t have idle time. Margo Ulrich said it’s important to
have safe places where kids can feel comfortable; she also said the Porter
midnight parade, which has generated complaints over public drinking, goes
against the message adults should be sending.
Granat said the parade will be placed on a future agenda.