The Porter Town
Council met last night to pass a host of measures to ensure Town operations
during the state-mandated stay at home order aimed at helping prevent the
spread of COVID-19.
The Council passed
an ordinance amending Town Code so employees can work from home in the case
of an emergency declaration. The Council passed it after unanimously
suspending its rules to have both first and second reading in the same
night, in light of the fact that the stay at home order took effect at
midnight last night. The Council also formally declared a state of emergency
to enact the work from home provision.
President Greg Stinson said all Town of Porter employees--including those
who are paid hourly, work part-time, or cannot work during the stay at home
order-- will be paid their regular rates during the stay at home mandate,
which requires that only essential personnel report to work and prohibits
nonessential social activities until April 7, per an executive order by
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. The Town of Porter will also comply with
government mandates on providing paid sick leave and family leave for
In an effort to
ease financial stress on residents and local businesses, the Council also
unanimously approved the suspension of all late fees associated with the
sewer bills that just went out. Stinson said the Town can’t waive sewer
bills, but bills that go unpaid will not accrue late fees or interest for
the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Following another state mandate, all
utility shut-offs are suspended for the duration of the crisis, so Porter
residents will not have interrupted service for nonpayment of sewer bills.
that there will be no changes to Porter Police staffing, operations, or
services, and the Porter Fire Department remains at the ready with no
reduction in staff either. The Public Works department, however, is moving
to only performing essential tasks such as meter reading, clearing storm
drains, and emergency calls.
The Town Hall
remains closed to the public, but will be staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
every day for essential tasks. The Porter Parks Department will be closed,
though Parks Director Brian Bugajski will continue working and be available
by phone and email. The Easter Egg Hunt scheduled for April 4 has been
cancelled and will not be rescheduled this year, Council member David
Phillips reported. Phillips said Bugajski plans to save the eggs and hide
extra next year.
In line with the
Governor’s order that schools remain closed until May 1, the Council also
ordered the Community Building at Hawthorne Park closed until at least May
1, or until bars and restaurants are allowed to reopen on State guidance.
Renters will be fully refunded for any events scheduled at the Community
Building that are affected by the COVID-19 precautions.
that the Porter parks remain open, despite the closure of the Parks
Department and Community Building. “The Park itself is open for people who
want to go for walks, take dogs for walks, take a walk with family. Those
are all acts that are allowed under our the stay at home order,” Stinson
said. People using the parks are still urged to practice social distancing.
Since there is no
electronic process for building and contractor permits, the building
licensing process will be suspended during the stay at home order. Stinson
said those with questions can contact Building Commissioner Michael Barry
and special circumstances will be considered. “You would be expected to put
the application in or talk to Mike to get the process rolling. This is not
meant to halt any work that needs to be done. It’s simply that with the way
we are set up, there’s a lot of papers that need to be handed back and
forth,” Stinson said. “We will make arrangements under special circumstances
and we’ll allow people to proceed if needed.”
Town meetings will
continue as needed, and may be conducted with one member present and the
rest joining via conference call, per new public access guidelines on
meetings and COVID-19 safety. Meetings will remain open to the public,
though those in attendance are urged to practice social distancing, and the
public will be able to call in and join meetings remotely if the pandemic
situation worsens, Stinson said.
In other business,
Stinson reported the Council is in receipt of the annual Tax Increment
Financing (TIF) report, well ahead of the April 15 deadline. The Council
also approved Police Chief Jamie Spanier’s request to spend $1,675.10 from
LIT to pay the Town’s annual fee for its subscription to the Code Red
Emergency Notification System and approved Fire Chief Jay Craig to rollover
five unused vacation days.