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Porter urges patience in emergencies; Stinson, Virtue lead Council in 2014

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Porter Public Works superintendent Brenda Brueckheimer gave an emotional recap Tuesday of her department’s battle with the Jan. 4-5 blizzard that paralyzed the Duneland area.

For the most part, she told the Porter Town Council, residents were understanding and helpful, but a surprising number were vebally abusive to Public Works employees and even made hand gestures and threw snow at their backs.

At one point, said Brueckheimer, she was so hesitant to travel in her town-marked vehicle she went around in her personal vehicle because of the language she was encountering.

“No employee, regardless of department, deserves abuse,” said council president Greg Stinson. “If INDOT can’t keep interstates clear, why should we be able to clear your cul-de-sac so you can go to Jewel?”

Stinson said it was a declared state of emergency and Porter plow drivers were risking their lives to keep what roads they could open. He told police chief James Spanier if it’s necessary to arrest a citizen who’s interfering with town employees, the council will back him up.

Brueckheimer said her employees tallied a total of 880 regular hours and 340 overtime hours not including her own multiple shifts to battle 18 to 24 inches of wind-driven snow in extreme cold. “I can’t even commend my staff enough,” she told the council. “They did an amazing job.”

She emphasized it’s not the town’s responsibility to keep snow away from mailboxes, a source of post-blizzard complaints, because plows can’t safely get that close. Brueckheimer and Stinson said it’s up to residents to clear mailboxes and sidewalks if they want delivery, and to clear blocked storm inlets, in this case frozen by the sub-zero cold snap following the storm, to avoid flooding.

Brueckheimer thanked Spanier and fire chief Lewis Craig and their staffs as well as park superintendent Brian Bugajski and park maintenance specialist Jim Miller for their assistance. A Park Department truck sustained $500 damage in an accident but there were no injuries.

Council member Elka Nelson praised Brueckheimer for leading her department under extreme circumstances, which prompted applause from the town hall audience.

Resident Jennnifer Klug earlier had commended all Porter departments for their blizzard-related efforts. “When most people wouldn’t dare venture outside, they’re out there clearing our streets, keeping us safe.”

Brueckheimer thanked the residents who shoveled, brought the Public Works employees food, thanked them and inquired about their well-being. She encouraged neighbors to help neighbors in emergencies.

Stinson said the town had used its reverse 911 notification system to alert residents as needed.

Brueckheimer also asked residents to call her department at 926-4212 to report potholes so they can be filled.

Department heads retained

After praising current department heads for their leadership, the council agreed with member David Wodrich absent to retain Brueckheimer, Spanier, Craig, Bugajski and building commissioner/director of development Mike Barry.

Stinson will lead the council in 2014 and Jeannine Virtue was retained as vice-president. Council liaisons to departments were named: Stinson to town hall, Rob Pomeroy to the Police Department, Nelson to the Park Department, Virtue to Public Works and Wodrich to the Fire Department.

Council appointments to town boards and commissions were made by unanimous votes. Stinson and resident Joe Simanski were named to the Redevelopment Commission, and Stinson’s presidential RDC appointments were Erik Wagner, Virtue and Pomeroy.

Wodrich was named as the council’s municipal appointment to the Plan Commission, and Stinson returned both Wagner and veteran member Jim Eriksson to the commission. Eriksson also was a presidential appointment to the Stormwater Management Board.

The council named Mark Lynk to the Metropolitan Police Commission and reappointed Henry “Jay” Huyser to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Stinson will continue as the town’s representative on the Northwestern Regional Planning Commission, and Virtue will represent Porter on the Duneland Economic Development Corp.

Consultants also retained

Long-time town planner Jim Mandon was appointed to that post again, as was Haas & Associates as the town engineer. Both Cender & Company and Umbaugh & Associates were hired as financial planners, the latter for budget support and long-range financial planning.

In other business, Craig urged landlords to return by Jan. 31 required forms certifying they have working smoke detectors in their rental properties. The forms can be obtained at the town hall, police station and fire station but they must be returned to the latter by the deadline.

Clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy announced her office will be open Saturday, March 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for issuing Porter Beach parking permits.

Bugajski said Sunday at 10 a.m. at Hawthorne Park the Frozen Feet 5K steps off as part of the Crazy Legs Racing Series. Runners generally will follow the Brickyard Trail.

The new winter discount rate for Hawthorne Park rentals has prompted more inquiries and bookings, said Bugajski. He also thanked Liz Tilden and Leroy Flores, organizers of last fall’s Porter Perfect Pint brewfest, for making a generous donation to the Park Department from the event proceeds.

 

 

Posted 1/15/2014