Chesterton Tribune

Porter weighs options in cleaning former home to 100 cats

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The Porter Town Council is taking a new approach in hopes of cleaning up a home at First and Main streets north of Hjelm Road where two years ago the owner had an estimated 100 cats.

The consensus Tuesday was to work with the Porter County Health Department, which recently determined the home’s hot water heater, furnace and well need replacing, and to verify if the property was the subject of a recent Sheriff’s sale.

Council member Michele Bollinger, reporting for absent building commissioner Art Elwood, said he did a recent site visit with the Health Department and took pictures of conditions found in the home. She noted a petition was received from neighbors indicating how the smell coming from the cat house affects them.

Town attorney Greg Sobkowski said since Elwood already has issued citations, the town could pursue compliance and collection of a fine, or contact the owner’s mortgage company to alert them of the risk to their security interest.

If the town issues a building-standards order to bring the home into compliance and it isn’t, added Sobkowski, Porter could have to pay for the work including demolition and seek to recoup the funds later.

Problems started in 2009 when officials entered the home ridden with cat feces and found what were described as deplorable conditions. July, 2010 Elwood told the council about 70 cats were still living there, and that the owner had been found competent after evaluation.

At that time it was stated the town could take the matter to court, and that Porter town code limits the number of approved animals allowed in a Residential zone to six.

Cut now or cut later

On the recommendation of Clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy after conferring with town financial consultant Karl Cender, the council approved under suspension of the rules reducing the current appropriations available to spend by $193,848.

Pomeroy said more money was lost this year than anticipated due to implementation of Indiana’s circuit -breaker property tax legislation, and it’s not known how much will be lost next year so trying to plan 15 months ahead is risky. Town budgets can take the deductions now so it’s better not to wait, she advised.

Trimmed was $54,604 from the Town Hall budget and $63,976 from the Police budget or a total $118,580 from the General Fund. Also, $38,243 from Motor Vehicle/Highway; $17,803 from the Fire Fund; $9,469 from the Park Fund; and $9,753 from the Cumulative Capital Development Fund.

Vote was 4-0 to make the reductions with member Todd Martin absent.

The town is anticipating receipt of its second 2011 property tax distribution later this year. As long as the cash is available, the council agreed to allow Pomeroy to pay the town’s volunteer firefighters their annual compensation in early November instead of December pending review of fire chief Lewis Craig Sr.’s accounting prior to the Nov. 10 payroll.

Pomeroy also announced the Nov. 8 Town Council meeting has been canceled because the town hall will be used as an election polling place that day. She said the town hall will be closed Nov. 11 for Veterans Day, so anyone with a scheduled Nov. 8 or 9 sewer shut-off needs to pay before those dates.

Fire service still busy

Assistant Porter fire chief Jay Craig said his department responded to 46 calls in September, the largest percentage at 21 being medical assists; there were six vehicle accidents. Firefighters spent 35 hours and 34 minutes on emergency calls with an average 5.7 firefighters responding per call. Porter gave mutual aid to other departments six times last month and received mutual aid three times.

Council president Trevin Fowler said the volunteers deserve recognition because 20 of the 46 calls occurred during the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. day shift and 16 in the afternoons. Ten calls came in during the midnight shift.

Jay Craig said Lt. Jason Bogue was named Porter Firefighter of the Month in September, that Engineer Mitch Louthan helped coordinate recent fire-prevention programs for hundreds of students at Yost Elementary and Discovery Charter Schools, and that the Porter Ladies Reserves deserve thanks for bringing food and water, some of it donated, to firefighters at call-out locations.

Craig also commended Chesterton fire chief Mike Orlich and his department for coordinating the fire-related honors for the late Army Spc. James Butz, a former Porter firefighter who lost his life while on duty in Afghanistan. Chesterton Police Sgt. Chris Swickard was thanked for coordinating the emergency-services honor guard.

In other business Tuesday:

• Porter police chief James Spanier urged motorists to use caution Oct. 31 with children on the streets for Halloween. He also said all Porter officers participating passed an Emergency Vehicle Operations Course, and that the Police Commission will conduct a 5 p.m. Nov. 7 workshop to review department rules and regulations.

• Public Works superintendent Brenda Brueckheimer said leaf collection is behind due to pick-ups from last week’s windstorm but workers are catching up with the leaves now.

• Director of engineering Matt Keiser said the process of land acquisition for the new Porter Avenue lift station can begin, and that the stationary pumps for the upgraded 6 Box Lane lift station were wired and will be started this week.

• Park Board president Rondi Wightman said the town Park and Fire department each likely will receive several thousand dollars in donations from the recent Porter’s Perfect Pint fundraiser. She noted Sunday’s park Boo Bash children’s Halloween party had over 300 people attending.

• The council voted 4-0 to maintain the town’s liability insurance through the Anton agency at an approximate $6,000 savings.



Posted 10/26/2011