Chesterton Tribune



Porter gets $32,000 for downtown designs; Augsburg sewer bill reduced

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Porter director of development Mike Barry announced the town has been awarded a $32,000 federal grant for downtown sidewalk and streetscape improvements.

The required local match Porter will pay under the Creating Livable Communities program is $8,000.

On Monday the Chesterton Town Council acknowledged receipt of a $24,000 CLC grant with a $6,000 local match due; both grants were awarded through the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

In an award letter to Barry from NIRPC executive director Ty Warner, he encourged Porter’s collaboration/cooperation with Chesterton on hike/bike trail connections as well as Porter’s connectivity to the South Shore’s Dune Park train station north of town.

Barry told the Porter Town Council on Tuesday that the $32,000 is for project design and another grant to help fund construction will be sought. Tentative plans are for sidewalk upgrades and additional downtown ADA-compliant intersection approaches. “It’s hard to walk around here,” he observed.

Council president Greg Stinson thanked Barry for his efforts to obtain the grant, adding Porter has an updated downtown master plan to implement.

In other business, the council voted 4-0 with member Rob Pomeroy absent to accept a negotiated payment plan for Augsburg Lutheran Church’s back-billed sanitary sewer charges. Augsburg’s original bill was reduced to $1,229 now payable in four installments this year.

Porter sewer bills are based on water consumption. Last year Porter’s utility determined some residential and commercial sewer accounts had been billed based on incorrect water-meter sizes. Adjustments were made resulting in several previously underbilled customers being charged for outstanding balances.

Some customers paid, some took negotiated payment plans and for certain residential customers town ordinance was amended. In addition to its payment plan, Augsburg took steps to have its larger meter reduced to 1-inch to be billed at a lower rate, which the council approved.

Council members Jeannine Virtue and David Wodrich posed questions about fairness to customers. President Greg Stinson said the town stands ready to work with them, and member Elka Nelson said such matters are handled on a case-by-case basis because setting a blanket rule is neither feasible nor reasonable.

Stinson said the back billings represent money the customers should have been paying all along and the town is legally within its rights to go after it.

Also Tuesday, by consensus the council approved having town attorney Gregg Sobkowski prepare revised guidelines for hiring security officers for events at Park Department grounds and buildings, especially when alcohol is served.

Nelson, park liaison, said current policy mandates a security officer be hired under certain circumstances, but it needs to be made clear what happens if those rules are violated. She also suggested giving park director Brian Bugajski and/or town police chief James Spanier authority to waive the need for security if advisable.

The council unanimously transferred $200,000 from the CEDIT fund to the general fund; the money is not a temporary loan. Last year a financial consultant recommended Porter balance its budget and build up the general fund to achieve year-end balances, which had been steadily decreasing.

Stinson told department heads that future CEDIT disbursements for other uses will be carefully considered to protect that fund, which also pays for debt service.

In other matters:

*  Nelson said she’s elated at the news that Paul Labovitz has been named superintendent of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore replacing Constantine Dillon, who retired last year. “I look forward to a new beginning,” she said, as well as a smoother, closer, easier relationship with the town. “(Labovitz) has my vote of confidence.”

*  Clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy said the monthly fee on town sewer bills that pays for trash/recycling collection will increase $0.35 a month or $0.70 per bill based on rates adopted last year to fund a multi-year refuse contract.

*  Resident Jennifer Klug suggested the town look into requiring carbon monoxide detectors. “It’s a very elementary way to save lives.” Stinson said it will be discussed but he and others questioned how the requirement, if adopted, would be enforced.

*  John Kallen, a member of the State Park Little League board of directors, presented a donation check for $200 and requested use of the Hawthorne Park ballfield again this season. He said SPLL registration at more than 500 children is the best one ever. By unanimous vote the council approved the use but it’s subject to Sobkowski reviewing the proposed contract with the town.

*  Resident Debbie Bowen said it’s impossible to walk on Porter sidewalks because they are not shoveled. She was told that’s for the private property owner to do, not the town.

*  Public Works superintendent Brenda Brueckheimer said her workers plan to remove large snowmounds that block sidewalks at intersections. She also urged residents to shovel out their trash containers, especially in alleys, so garbage trucks can reach and empty them.

*  Spanier was authorized to seek proposals for the purchase of new police vehicles this year, possibly 4-wheel drive models.

*  Wodrich reported the Fire Department is having a difficult time with the mandatory state fire-reporting system’s computer program. Porter is looking at new software after losing data and struggling to provide it.

*  Bugajski announced the popular Porter Easter egg hunt will be April 12 at 1 p.m. at Hawthorne with a record number of eggs; volunteers are being sought. The council approved allowing Porter United Methodist Church to host a sunrise Easter service at Hawthorne. The rental fee was waived.



Posted 1/12/2014