Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Porter Town Council seeks more control over park workers

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The Porter Town Council is considering making all Park Department employees, including the superintendent, directly answerable to the council, not the Park Board.

Council president Michele Bollinger said it’s something her board has been contemplating for some time. She also emphasized the change would be no reflection on the job park superintendent Jim Miller is doing.

“Jim is the only department head not answerable to the Town Council and this would bring him under our jurisdiction like any other department head,” said Bollinger.

Miller at times attends council meetings, sitting with department heads and giving the council a Park Department report.

The Town Council and the Park Board will meet jointly in closed executive session tonight immediately following the council meeting. Reason given is to discuss a job performance evaluation of individual employees.

Bollinger confirmed who would supervise Miller will be discussed.

The Park Board meets 7 p.m. Wednesday and the “park superintendent’s potential transfer of departments” is listed on that agenda.

When asked about the matter, Park Board president Patty Raffin responded by email, “We are gathering information as to the process as the Park Board is unsure of how this could be done.”

Bollinger said since the Park Board meets only once a month it makes sense for the Town Council, which meets twice monthly, to supervise park employees.

She suggested the situation would be a win/win for Miller because he wouldn’t have to wait a month for a decision about something from the Park Board.

Asked if the Park Board would have to seek permission from the council if the board wanted Miller to do something, Bollinger said the council member designated as the Park Department liaison, who typically attends park meetings, could approve requests.

Indiana law regarding Boards of Parks and Recreation states that a superintendent shall supervise the general administration of the department, and shall perform other duties that the board directs. It also says the board shall appoint and fix the duties of necessary Park Department administrative officers.

Typically in the Duneland area a Park Board supervises its own employees. Said Bollinger, “I understand how other towns do that. We’re looking at Porter.”

Last winter the Porter Park Board agreed to the Town Council’s request that Miller plow snow from the parking lots at the Porter town hall and police station. Bollinger said this had nothing to do with the council’s current workforce proposal, which she defended as not micromanaging the Park Department.

Bollinger said a definite factor in the council’s proposal is planned construction in 2011 of Porter’s Brickyard and Orchard Pedestrian Way hike/bike trails.

Preliminary work on Porter’s leg of the proposed Dunes Kankakee Trail also may begin next year; which town department would administer and maintain three trails hasn’t been announced.

The Town Council meets publicly tonight at 7 p.m. at the town hall. On the agenda is department reports, an ordinance to transfer unused funds, the expiring tri-town appointment of Judy Chaplin to the Porter County Tourism Bureau, and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore superintendent Costa Dillon.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday at the town hall the Porter Redevelopment Commission will meet to hear on official report from consultant SEH on updated plans for Porter’s Gateway to the Dunes initiative.

The project previously received $1.8 million from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, and an additional request for RDA funds could be made next month. The Redevelopment Commission also will hear a report on its engineering and development efforts.

This month only the Park Board will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Hawthorne Park community building.

In addition to the park employees discussion, the Park Board will hear reports and discuss the upcoming Jan. 28 family game night, additional ideas for park sponsorship, an approved caterers list, and a proposed Hawthorne drainage update.

All three boards --- the Redevelopment Commission, Town Council and Park Board --- will take public comment at the beginning of their respective meetings.

Due to a lack of business, both the Porter Board of Zoning Appeals and Plan Commission will not meet Wednesday as scheduled.


Posted 12/14/2010




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