Chesterton Tribune

Porter midnight parade returns July 4 as memorial to soldiers Butz and Harting

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The Porter midnight parade makes its return at 12 a.m. July 4, and this year it will honor two local fallen soldiers.

The Porter Town Council approved an assembly permit Tuesday for the Village Tavern to sponsor the event, which will be in memory of James Butz of Porter, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011, and Adam Harting of Portage killed in Iraq in 2005.

Council member Elka Nelson said several steps are being taken this year to return the midnight parade to the patriotic theme it originally had, and to more closely control what units are entered.

Parade units must submit an application that will be reviewed before a number and placard are assigned to each unit; no open liquor containers or impaired drivers will be permitted. “I think that will probably prevent some of the problems we’ve had in the past,” according to Nelson.

The midnight parade was a novelty that drew small crowds initially but things got out of hand in succeeding years as crowds swelled to the thousands creating problems for Porter’s downtown residents to the point the parade was discontinued.

Resident Jennifer Klug said plans to regulate the parade entries are welcome, but the real problems occurred with the spectators. “If you keep alcohol in the bars, that’s a good thing.”

Council member Jeannine Virtue said of the midnight parade, “It’s not a place for kids.” Member Greg Stinson reminded that later July 4 morning a larger parade will step off through Porter as part of the Family 4th Fest in Hawthorne Park.

Earlier in the meeting Klug suggested better coordination is needed when scheduling multiple events over the July 4 holiday so as not to overwork Porter public employees and police officers.

Assembly permits also were approved for the 4th Fest parade and for the Chesterton Art Fair in Hawthorne Park Aug. 3-5.

Splash Down rezoning OK’d

With no discussion or comment, the Town Council rezoned Splash Down Dunes waterpark and some of the land surrounding it, but just barely on a 3-0-1 vote.

June 6 the Porter Plan Commission recommended the specific business and residential designations for the parcels after an offer by Seven Peaks Marketing LC to buy the U.S. 20 waterpark at Waverly Road led to the discovery that a previous 2003 rezoning never took effect.

Voting to approve the new zoning were council members Rob Pomeroy, Virtue and Stinson. Bill Cantrell was absent due to illness and Elka Nelson recused herself; Nelson is the real estate agent handling the Seven Peaks purchase.

Last week waterpark owner/operator Gary Brinton of Provo, Utah told Porter officials he plans to buy and update the 32-acre Splash Down Dunes and its parking lot and be ready to open Memorial Day weekend 2013. He later said he will invest about $1.5 to $2 million renovating the business.

During public comment at Tuesday’s council meeting, Shirley McCarthy questioned whether Brinton was financially able to acquire and upgrade Splash Down Dunes, and whether the town had done its due diligence in light of Internet reports of claims made against Brinton in Utah.

Stinson said the Porter sale is a private transaction to which the town is not a party. Porter Bank, which is providing the financing, seems completely confident with Brinton’s situation and if he weren’t financially solvent, the bank would never give him the money, added Stinson.

Brinton is not asking the town for tax abatement or to pay for any infrastructure, he continued. If for some reason Seven Peaks can’t make a go of Splash Down Dunes, Stinson said, “At the very worst-case scenario we’ll have a renovated water park that would be much easier to sell.”

As far as the Utah legal actions, Stinson said they were resolved in Brinton’s favor.

June 6 Brinton confirmed to the Chesterton Tribune that he was named co-defendant in a new lawsuit filed last month in Utah. “It’s in litigation and I don’t want to comment, but we’re making a motion to dismiss,” said Brinton.

Safety Fest Friday

Co-chairs Eric Ailes, 10, and Sophia Keating, 9, addressed the council inviting the public to Friday’s Summer Safety Fest from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Hawthorne Park. Digital message signs and posters around Porter are promoting the event.

Park Board president Rondi Wightman credited Ailes and Keating for spearheading the project. “Everything you see Friday is thanks to Eric and Sophia.” Porter town departments will present safety demonstrations and instructional displays aimed at education and fun.

In other business, assistant Porter fire chief Jay Craig presented May’s activity report: 51 calls, up from 42 last year, for 231 year-to-date calls or 67 ahead of 2011. Porter firefighters gave mutual aid to other departments five times in May and received it seven times. There were four structure fires, 23 EMS responses, 10 accidents, one dive call and five times responding to the Indiana Dunes State Park.

Also Tuesday, town attorney Gregg Sobkowski reported Porter was dismissed as a co-defendant with several other municipalities from a lawsuit over where the town’s police dog was trained.

Approved 4-0 was a $5,000 transfer in CEDIT money from the town hall account to debt service to pay the lease on the Porter police station.

As council president, Stinson said more communication is needed between the town hall and department heads when the latter plan to take vacation days; he asked them to notify the town hall and their respective liaisons prior to the absence, and to specify a contact person during it.


Posted 6/13/2012