The Porter Town Council instructed its attorney, Gregg Sobkowski, to draft
an ordinance that would protect the dignity of funerals, and the peace and
privacy of mourners.
Meeting Tuesday, council president Elka Nelson explained the ordinance
likely would be similar to one from Manchester, MO that late last year was
upheld by the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The ordinance would protect mourners at funeral/burial sites from protests
and demonstrations like those staged by members of Westboro Baptist Church
of Topeka, KS to draw attention to their opposition to homosexuality.
Westboro’s protests have taken place at funerals for fallen American
soldiers to maximize publicity.
Nelson said while Porter doesn’t have a funeral home, it has churches and
places where memorial observances could be held so the town should be
Porter also has at least one cemetery.
Council member Jeannine Virtue reminded that a procession escorting the body
of town resident U.S. Army Spc. James Butz passed through Porter in 2011.
Crowds in Porter, Chesterton and along the route lined the streets to pay
respect to Butz, who died Sept. 28, 2011 while on duty in Afghanistan.
Virtue said if the council has the opportunity to protect Porter residents
during a loved one’s funeral/burial, it should.
In its ruling the Appeals Court said it typically would not be inclined to
restrict otherwise lawful speech for its emotional offensiveness alone
absent physical harm. “Nevertheless, given the special and unique place an
individual’s funeral and burial hold in the lives of those touched by the
deceased, the expansion is likely warranted. It is a journey taken only
In other business Tuesday, Nelson advised the Duneland Economic Development
Co. again will be offering grants to local businesses to make facade
improvements, and for upgrades to assure accessibility for the handicapped.
She urged Porter business owners to apply by the April 19 deadline, or to
contact her or a DEDC member for more information.
Applications are available at the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce
and at the Porter town hall. Nelson said individual grants typically have
ranged from $1,000 to about $5,000.
Councilman David Wodrich said the grant program is an excellent opportunity
for business owners, and that he was awarded a grant last year to make
improvements at one of his businesses.
After the meeting Porter councilman Greg Stinson said unlike previous years,
Porter may not be able to match DEDC grants awarded to Porter business
owners to extend their ability to renovate properties. “Our budget is tight
and we’re looking to see if funds are available.”
Also during the council meeting:
-- Public Works superintendent Brenda Brueckheimer said she’s been fielding
calls about standing water in sideyards and streets; she noted Porter had 10
inches of snow and 1 1/2 inches of rain recently on top of frozen ground.
She asked for patience until the water slowly drains.
-- Stinson thanked the Street Department for a fine job clearing streets
last week. “It was major (snow)storm. It hit hard; it hit fast.”
-- Brueckheimer urged residents not to flush mop heads, diapers and rags
into sewers, which apparently has been happening in the Porter Cove and
Woodlake Springs areas. Residents also were asked to report the location of
pot holes to 926-4212 so they can be filled.
-- Director of Parks Brian Bugajski previewed the March 23 Easter Egg Hunt
at 1 p.m. at the Hawthorne Park community building for children ages 1 to 9.
New this year will be an egg hunt for special-needs children so call
926-1687 to reserve their spot. Bugajski noted local businesses have been
generous with donations for the annual event.
-- Councilman Rob Pomeroy, Fire Department liaison, said members approved
the terms of a contract with Westchester Township for 2013 fire protection,
and the council approved the contract unanimously. The town will be paid
-- On final reading the council approved lowering the speed limit from 40
mph to 30 mph on Tremont Road between Indiana 49 and U.S. 20. The road is
slated for widening and rebuilding.