Chesterton Tribune

Photo: Rally in the rain for Porter Town Hall

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United in support: Several people attending Tuesday night’s rally to save the 1913 Porter town hall from the wrecking ball brought their children. (Left to right) Jim, Trevor and Noelle Utley came to help save what they said is a historical landmark that should be preserved. Bids for town hall demolition will be opened Sept. 5.        (Tribune photo by Paulene Poparad)

 

By PAULENE POPARAD

Rain-soaked but determined, more than 70 Porter residents chanted “Save our hall” as Town Council members arrived for Tuesday night’s meeting.

Many supporters waved signs bearing a circled slash through a bulldozer like the one they fear soon may be bearing down on the 1913 town hall, which is on the state and federal Register of Historic Places.

Three of five council members maintain the building is too expensive to renovate and could become a financial drain if unforeseen problems arise during the remodeling. Bids are to be opened Sept. 5 for town hall demolition.

The Utley family was present last night to support the town hall. “I felt like (renovation) would be the most beneficial to the economy. Now’s not a good idea to start a project,” said Jim Utley. According to his wife Noelle, who said the couple has experience with renovation, “This is a historical building and should be preserved.”

Added son Trevor, “It seems like it’s an important part of this town.”

Leanne Grambo was happy to sign a pro-town hall petition. “It’s ridiculous,” she said. “They won’t save a town monument. It’s been here for years. I feel like they should have taken one of the two initial bids and been money ahead.”

The Friends of Porter Inc., a historic preservation group, offered $37,500 now and future unspecified payments, while Information Service Professionals offered $43,850. Both offers were rejected July 23 by a 3-2 council vote.

Grambo said she was attracted to Porter because of its small-town atmosphere. “If the majority want to save the town hall, how can they go against the majority’s wishes just because they’re the council? The council should do what the people want.”

Three-year resident Kelly Geissler said a new town hall isn’t needed. “I feel the town hall is a historical landmark and should stay, even if it costs more money. Hey, they built a new high school they didn’t need.”

Lifelong Porter resident Virginia Green also would support paying more to keep the town hall. “My house is just as old or older,” she said. “I’d rather see the town hall there than something else. Renovating it would be fine. I don’t know why they need anything bigger.”

The council majority has agreed to proceed with construction of a new, handicapped-accessible town hall using plans drawn up in 1998. That building is designed to resemble the historic town hall in great detail.

Monday, a spokesman for the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana said that group is consulting attorneys in hopes of finding a way to stop Porter town hall demolition.

 

Posted 8/14/2002