Chesterton Tribune

Porter Park Board delays decision on Hawthorne permanent easement

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The longest agenda item during the Porter Park Board’s two-hour meeting Tuesday ended in no action.

Project manager Warren Thiede of Haas & Associates engineers described in detail the newest plans for the portion of the Orchard Pedestrian Way hike/bike trail and a companion drainage project that both would run through Hawthorne Park.

Rather than an outright purchase of the land needed, the town has proposed seeking a permanent easement from the Park Board with no compensation. Bill Jones representing the town was present to discuss the easement.

In addition to Hawthorne, the Park Board owns an undeveloped parcel west of Waverly Road between Lincoln and Franklin streets often used as overflow parking for large park events. The parcel is part of the trail/easement negotiations.

At the discussion’s conclusion, Park Board member Patty Raffin moved to approve Haas’ proposed plan for the trail with easements with the exception of further consideration regarding ingress/egress for the property along Franklin. No one seconded the motion.

Jones earlier had recommended the board’s attorney review the easement proposal. Board president Rondi Wightman declared the matter tabled.

Thiede initially said the town needs a decision from the Park Board to keep the project moving. The trail is slated for 2013 construction but a final tracing of the plans is due early this fall.

A factor that could modify the drainage design is whether the Indiana Department of Transportation, which is administering the federal grant project, will approve the proposed drainage solution for water generated south of the Amtrak line near Waverly Road and Woodlawn Avenue. Even if INDOT rejects that part of the plan, said Thiede, an easement for the trail itself still is needed.

Miller announcement premature?

The meeting ended with board member Jessie Campaniello congratulating park superintendent Jim Miller and his wife, park administrator Stephanie Miller, for their planned retirements effective Dec. 31. Campaniello said it’s helpful they told the board early so they can be part of a smooth transition to new management.

Stephanie Miller told the board that announcement was premature.

Wightman said the board accepted the resignations. Raffin said the board needs to continue with its research on how to restructure the Park Department and consult its attorney.

After the meeting Jim Miller said, “I’m not committed to anything and nothing’s firm with me,” adding that the matter shouldn’t have been brought up publicly.

The board met in closed executive session June 4 to discuss a job performance evaluation of individual employees. Dec. 31 Jim Miller will have been with the Park Department 24 years and Stephanie Miller 20 years.

Stephanie Miller later told the Chesterton Tribune that they wrote retirement letters, but they didn’t agree to a retirement that includes a restructure of positions later this year while still employed.

Six-month senior review

Jeanne Boehlke representing the Duneland Seniors group gave a status report on how the club has grown in its first six months. She gave credit to Wightman for her initial organizational efforts and for her continued publicity about the group’s activities and plans that help promote interest.

Boehlke also thanked the Millers for their helpful assistance, and said the seniors are indebted to the Park Department for allowing them to meet Wednesdays in the Hawthorne community building at no charge. Paid memberships number about 70, and there are about 45-50 regular attendees, said Boehlke.

She explained she’s coordinated activities as a member of the interim board initially appointed, and the group is in the process of organizing as a club with officers.

Boehlke said to show their appreciation, the seniors try to be a resource to help the park, having participated in activities like filling Easter eggs, and they plan to do more. Raffin thanked Boehlke for her efforts to organize the Duneland Seniors.

In other business, Zathoe Sexton won board permission for purple ribbons to be placed on Hawthorne trees in connection with the July 14-15 Duneland Relay for Life. The ribbons will be taken down in a timely manner.

In her capacity representing Globe Star, LLC, Sexton won permission for the agency to conduct a pilot summer park program at Hawthorne’s west shelter for individuals with disabilities. Programming will include crafts, games and other activities to build relationships and social skills. Classes will be Aug. 6 through Aug. 10 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. each day. The fee is $15 with scholarships available.

Also approved for a representative of Prevent Child Abuse in Porter County was a rental at Hawthorne with a waiver of fees. The group plans to promote its message of child protection and well-being by hosting a contest July 28 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for the best lemonade stand. Celebrity judging and people’s choice awards will be given.

Sexton returned as a member of the Bud’s Buddies friends of the parks group to report a balance of $1,250 after donations from Shelton Fireworks, Third Coast Spice Cafe, Anton Insurance, Haas & Associates, Tilden & Tilden, Wilson Management, Raffin Construction and McColly real estate.

Sexton said the first summer Hawthorne concert June 13 drew 166 spectators, and Raffin thanked Westchester Public Library for sponsoring the event. Additional free Hawthorne concerts are planned for July 11 and Aug. 8 with Robert Vodnoy as artistic director. Picnicking is encouraged.

Board members reported the June 15 Summer Safety Fest at Hawthorne drew 300 people to the inaugural event. Raffin credited Porter town departments for their assistance and support, and the Burns Harbor Fire Department was commended for an extrication demonstration with firefighters in full turn-out gear despite the extreme heat.


Posted 6/20/2012