Chesterton Tribune


Porter to consider hydrant fee, redrawn council districts November 27

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Porter is the last Duneland town not to pass its annual cost for hydrant maintenance on to residents, but that could change soon.

Town Council member Elka Nelson said she plans to ask fellow members at the Nov. 27 meeting to consider implementing a $4 per month fee to be paid by Indiana American Water Co. customers in Porter. IAWC charges the town a maintenance fee so the hydrants are in working order when needed for fire protection.

Nelson said having residents pay the fee instead of the town would free up $113,000 next year that can be used for other Porter obligations and services.

Preparing next year’s budget was a struggle and money will be tight in 2013, she predicted.

Nelson explained Tuesday that Porter did enact a hydrant fee in 2003 but in 2005 the sitting Town Council rescinded it. Chesterton has had a hydrant fee for several years. Burns Harbor never had a hydrant fee until last month when a $4.12 per-month fee was approved on first reading; final approval is pending tonight.

Nelson said she’s consulted Burns Harbor clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan about the procedure involved, and Nelson volunteered to find out more information before Porter’s next meeting. “I don’t mind it falling on my shoulders if residents complain. I have a lot of good reasons to do this.”

Tentative redistricting plan

Council members studied two possible ways to redraw Porter’s five districts and reached preliminary consensus on one, asking that a redistricting ordinance be prepared for Nov. 27.

Porter Plan Commission member Erik Wagner presented his research aimed at bringing the districts closer to the goal of 972 persons per district. Under the new plan, population in each district would range from 1,231 persons to 867.

Nelson welcomed the fact the redistricted map would place much of the area planned for the Gateway to the Indiana Dunes project into District 1; currently the area spans Districts 1 and 4.

The map also appears to reduce the size of District 3 and increase the size of District 2. Councilman David Wodrich asked if the redrawn map leaves room for growth. Wagner said yes as three districts are below the 972 goal.

Towns are charged with reviewing their district/ward boundaries now that the 2010 federal census has been certified. Council president Greg Stinson said he’s not sure the last time Porter was redistricted but it was prior to Porter Cove subdivision being built, which accounted for a large jump in Ward 3 population.

Stinson noted it’s sometimes hard to find candidates willing to run for town office in a low-census ward. Although representation is divided into districts, Porter council members are elected by town-wide vote.

Once redistricted, the changes related to elections would take effect for the 2015 council race.

Road paving this month

On the recommendation of Public Works director Brenda Brueckheimer, the council voted 5-0 to accept the $62,723 proposal of Rieth Riley to use Major Moves money to make road improvements at Porter Cove. Also unanimously accepted was the $29,600 proposal of Hobart Paving to repair Hokanson, Sievert and Stephens streets using MVH funds.

After discussion the council agreed to table, consult the town attorney and possibly amend a proposed policy adopting guidelines for department heads to make small purchases costing less than $50,000.

Nelson said the plan needs more accountability and asked that council liaisons to the various departments be required to give their prior approval in writing as a protection for department heads. She also wanted it clearer that if a liaison rejects a purchase request, it can be brought to the full council for consideration.

Stinson said having a rigorous process in place allows department heads to make reasonable purchases without having to wait two or three weeks between council meetings.

In other business, Fire Chief Lewis Craig asked for authorization to have volunteer firefighters paid their annual compensation when he turns in paperwork to document the request. It was approved 5-0, but not without discussion.

Fire liaison council member Jeannine Virtue will forward Craig’s paperwork to other council members to sign off on by email, and associate town attorney Laura Frost said the council can ratify their approval at the Nov. 27 meeting.

Nelson questioned why Porter’s contract with the firefighters extends from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 but the firefighters’ incorporation has an accounting year of Nov. 1 through Oct. 31. She wanted to make sure the town was paying the volunteers correctly so state auditors were satisfied.

“I just want my firemen paid,” said Craig.

“So do I and everyone else,” said clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy.

In other business:

• Brueckheimer advised the public no leaf pick-up or brush chipping will take place Nov. 26-30 as the department readies its equipment for winter. She also thanked the Town Council and Gateway project consultant SEH for sponsoring a paintball challenge for the Public Works and Police departments with the latter winning the competition. A chili cook-off followed.

• The council gave first reading to a 2013 salary ordinance and will consider final approval Nov. 27.

• Stinson made his presidential appointment to the Plan Commission naming Ken Timm to replace the late Lorain Bell. Timm resigned from the Board of Zoning Appeals to accept, and he formerly served on the commission. The commission itself appoints a member to serve on the BZA; Bell held both seats.

• Virtue said the Duneland School Board is considering Porter’s request to name a fifth member to the Porter Park Board.


Posted 11/14/2012