Chesterton Tribune



Town of Porter paying all employees, suspending sewer bill late fees

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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.

Town Council 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 employees.

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.

Stinson emphasized 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.

Stinson emphasized 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.


Posted 3/25/2020




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