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Duneland Year in Review: Valpo loss is Duneland gain

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Valparaiso’s loss is Duneland’s gain.

That’s the big economic-development story of 2012, in a year big on economic development.

Begin with the official opening, on Aug. 25, of Porter Regional Hospital, at the northwest corner of U.S. Highway 6 and Ind. 49 in unincorporated Liberty Township. That facility is widely expected to generate new development in the area, not only ancillary medical services and physicians’ offices, but also spin-off commercial.

And indeed, in January the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals approved the last in a series of 36 variances requested by the developer of St. Andrews Medical Campus, a 109-acre mixed-use project on property adjacent to the hospital.

Then there was the game changer, announced less than two weeks ago: the relocation of the famously community-minded Urschel Labora-tories Inc. from Valpo to Coffee Creek Center in Chesterton. In the company’s press release on Dec. 21, Vice-president Rich Urschel said that the decision to build a new HQ and plant was prompted chiefly by a lack of available land, following 28 expansions of the facility over 40 years.

Coffee Creek Center, however, has quite a bit of available land and Urschel’s purchase of 160 acres represents a huge chunk of it. Chesterton officials have not yet said what incentives, if any, were offered to Urschel. Nor have they said what amendments to the planned unit development ordinance might be required before construction may begin, set right now for the second quarter of 2013. But Urschel’s commitment to its 300 employees and their convenience—on whom the move from Valpo will have little or no impact—speaks well of a company which could have moved anywhere yet chose to set up shop here.

Meanwhile, Porter Regional Hospital was not the only medical center to open its doors in Duneland this year. In March the Franciscan Alliance formally dedicated the Chesterton Health & Emergency Center, a 24-hour free-standing ER department built on the site of the old Jewel/Osco grocery. The $22 million investment is significant for any number of reasons. First, it’s a redevelopment of a site which had become blighted and a revitalization of that stretch of Indian Boundary Road. Second, it’s the northern anchor of a host of medical services which have mushroomed in Chesterton over the last 10 years. Finally, the facility offers cutting-edge emergency medicine to Dunelanders in their own backyard.

Also opening in Chesterton this year, in November, was the Addison Pointe Health & Rehabilitation Center on Dickinson Road: a nursing home facility with 100 skilled beds and 60 private suites for short-term rehab. Town Manager Bernie Doyle reported to the Town Council late this year that Addison Pointe appears to be exceeding the number of employees which it pledged to hire as part of a 10-year tax abatement granted to the developer, and that a number of those jobs have gone to Chesterton residents.

Chesterton officials are bullish on one last project: the construction, begun in October, of the Ind. 49 utility corridor. The idea behind that project: to open up commercial development along Ind. 49 south of the Indiana Toll Road by installing sanitary sewer, stormwater, water, and fiber optic infrastructure. And to open up development south of the town’s corporate limit as well, by upsizing the sanitary line sufficient to treat customers in unincorporated Liberty Township, thanks to a partnership with Porter County, which contributed $740,409. Total cost of the project: $2,888,865.

In the Town of Porter the name of the game in 2012 was re-development, with Utah developer Gary Brinton’s plans to invest $1.5 million to $2 million on improving the old Splash Down Dunes waterpark. Paving the way for that project was the Porter BZA, which secured written commitments governing the hours of operation, the maximum length of rides, and parking lot regulations. Then, in November, Seven Peaks Waterpark Duneland announced that the park will indeed officially open on Memorial Day 2013.

In December, moreover, the Porter Town Council followed the Chesterton Town Council’s lead in 2009 and formally established a riverfront district which includes the property of the old—and long vacant—Spa restaurant and banquet center. The advantage of a riverfront designation: it makes available, under state law, more liquor licenses than a municipality’s population would otherwise permit. Accomp-anying that move was news that an experienced regional caterer is in the process of acquiring the Spa property.

And one more bit of good news in Porter: IDEM reversed itself and decided that the town would not, after all, need at this point to monitor the Brickyard property by means of permanent wells.

The Referendum, the Election

In the first half of 2012 the big story was the Duneland School Board’s decision to put to a referendum a proposed new property tax—22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation—to cover multi-million dollar shortfalls in the Duneland School Corporation’s General Fund. The alternative, according to Superintendent Dirk Baer, would be wholesale cuts to staff and programs.

Perhaps oddly, no organized opposition to the referendum ever emerged in the run-up to the May 8 primary election. There was plenty of organized support, however, as scores of yard signs urging folks to vote “Yes” popped up throughout Duneland. The outcome, though, could scarcely have been closer: voters approved the new property tax by a 50.95 percent margin to 49.05 percent, in an election in which 33 percent of Duneland’s registered voters cast ballots, compared to only 21 percent countywide.

The lead story for the Nov. 6 general election: Democrats in Porter County win. Win big. In fact, Democrats swept every countywide race for the first time in memory. Yet despite the Democrat triumph, a sizable partisan rift appeared in the day-after numbers: fully 43 percent of all voters in Porter County cast straight-ticket ballots, up from 37 percent in 2008. In Duneland itself, the number of straight-ticket ballots nearly doubled from four years ago: 42 percent in 2012 versus 24 percent in 2008.

January

Sears Holding Corporation announces the closing of the Super Kmart at 6050 U.S. Highway 6 in Portage, followed a few days later by Meijer’s announcement that it is buying the property. The Class of 1992 stone monument at Chesterton High School is vandalized; damage is estimated at $3,500. An arson sets fire to the same playground structure at Dunes Friendship Lane twice in five hours; damage is estimated at $1,500.

A home in the 1300 block of County Line Road in Pine Township is destroyed by fire; 100,000 gallons of water are used to extinguish the blaze, which causes estimated damage of $650,000. The South Shore Orchestra nears the end of its seven-concert tour of China. The State Attorney General’s Office files suit against former Porter County Animal Shelter Director Judith Bonaventure to recover $7,199 in funds which the State Board of Accounts found missing in its annual audits and for which the suit contends she is responsible.

Animal Shelter Interim Director Jon Thomas advises the Shelter Advisory Board of a host of improvements made since his appointment in November 2011; care of animals is his No. 1 priority, he says. Porter County Council Member Dan Whitten, D-at large, is elected by his colleagues to the presidency for the third consecutive year. A rash of vehicle entries prompts Chesterton Police to urge residents to secure their vehicles and harden the target. An unknown person fires a gunshot at Fairhaven Baptist Church in Westchester Township.

A derailment involving three CSX freight trains strews 25 cars, five locomotives, and 45 intermodal trailers like Tinker toys in Jackson Township; none of the trains’ crews members is seriously hurt but firefighters from nearly every department in the county battle for 16 hours a blaze started when spilled diesel fuel ignites paper products being hauled by one of the trains; the smoke is visible for five miles, a one-square mile area is evacuated as a precaution, and firefighters use 139,200 gallons of water deployed by 800 feet of hoses hand-stretched to the scene; in the days after the incident, first responders begin reporting symptoms of gastroenteritis, the result of eating tainted food delivered to the scene by a Valparaiso restaurant.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, speaks of war, debt, taxes, and jobs at his annual town forum in Chesterton. Divisive “right-to-work” legislation is sent to the full Indiana House of Representatives for a vote; the bill would ban contracts requiring workers to pay union dues for representation; Gov. Mitch Daniels defends the bill in his State of the State address; most House Democrats begin a boycott of the session. Porter Director of Engineering Matt Keiser resigns.

Porter County Animal Control seizes 105 dogs from a home in the 100 block of C.R. 1400N in Westchester Township; charges are pending against their owner. The Chesterton Utility Service Board reports that the U.S. Postal Service is delivering some customers’ bills late or not at all. The Porter Park Board launches Bud’s Buddies, a not-for-profit advisory board named in honor of the late William “Bud” Tilden, a long-time member of the Park Board.

Brian Sinotte is named Porter Health System’s new chief operating officer. Report: the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor moved 2 million tons of cargo in 2011, an increase of 10 percent over 2010. The Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals approves the last of 36 variances for St. Andrews, a 109-acre mixed-use medical campus on property adjacent to the site of the new Porter Regional Hospital in Liberty Township.

Fire destroys a home in the area of C.R. 625E and C.R. 1600N in Pine Township; damage is characterized as total, after the roof falls into the ground floor. Fire causes an estimated $140,000 in damage to a house in the 1200 block of Griffin Lake Road in Chesterton; the blaze is believed to have started by burning incense. The new Duneland Seniors invites folks over 55 to join, for activities every Wednesday at the Community Building in Hawthorne Park in Porter.

Ryan Schroeder, 26, of Liberty Township, is charged with 23 felonies, after investigators say that he persuaded a woman to molest a young Chesterton boy and video the molestation. Fire causes $200,000 in damage to multiple condo units at Westchester Village on the Green, off 23rd Street in Chesterton; the suspected cause of the fire is an electrical malfunction. The Indiana Senate receives the “right-to-work” legislation, as House Democrats promise to end their boycott but not to hold a vote on the bill.

The CFD extinguishes the third house fire in three days, this one in the kitchen of a residence in the 800 block of South Jackson Blvd.; damaged is estimated at $30,000. The new Sage restaurant at 425 Sand Creek Drive holds a grand opening. The Indiana House passes the “right-to-work” bill by a vote of 54-44, as Republicans take advantage of their 60-40 majority in the House.

Mary Fox of Kramer & Leonard’s is installed as the 2012 Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce president. Porter Health Systems sets a Aug. 25 date for the move into the new Porter Regional Hospital. The state’s old electric chair, formerly used at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, is put on exhibit at the Indiana Department of Correction museum; the chair was constructed from wood salvaged from the state’s original hangman’s scaffold.

The Burns Harbor Town Council names Craig Barnes the new Town Marshal. The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s Board of Directors imposes an across-the-board fare hike of 5 percent to the nearest 25 cents, to take effect on Feb. 15 on the South Shore commuter line. Dunelander Kindermusik celebrates its 15th year of operating locally.

The CHS debate team wins the district qualifying tournament, sending Jon Vincent, Justin Reed, Nikita Chawla, Christian O’Brian, and Jack McCrum to the NFL national tourney in Indianapolis in the summer. INDOT proposes the construction of a non-grade interchange at the intersection of Ind. 49 and Vale Park Road/C.R. 400N in Center Township. U.S. Steel Corporation posts a net loss in 2011 of $68 million or 47 cents per share, compared to a net loss in 2010 of $482 million or $3.36. US. Steel also announces the sale of its Serbian operations to the Republic of Serbia.

February

The Indiana Senate passes the “right-to-work” bill by a vote of 28-22; Gov. Daniels signs it, making Indiana the first right-to-work state in the Rust Belt. NiSource Inc. posts a net income in 2011 of $299.1 million or $1.06 per share, compared to $282.6 million or $1.02 in 2010. Gary Atkinson and Donna Harris a.k.a. Donna Meade—the promoters of Dunes Country, a proposed New Urbanist mixed-use development on Brummitt Road, Pine Township—are charged with securities fraud and the unlawful sale of securities.

The Duneland Family YMCA names Executive Director Kym Groceman its Staff Person of the Year and Pat Bigger its Volunteer of the Year at the Y’s annual meeting. The Duneland School Corporation announces that a multi-million dollar shortfall in the General Fund could force program and staffing cuts, unless voters were to approve a new property tax of 22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in a referendum being considered for the May primary election; after the homestead and other deductions are applied, owners of a home valued at $100,000 would pay an extra $72.03 per year or $6 per month.

Jesse Daniels Sr. and Loren Hanson, two former officers of United Steel Workers Local 1011—representing members at ArcelorMittal’s Indiana Harbor facility—are found not guilty by a federal jury of conspiring to embezzle union funds. The Porter County Election Board votes unanimously to take no action against former Burns Harbor Town Marshal Jerry Price, whom Burns Harbor Clerk-Treasurer Jane Jordan accused of knowingly violating several election laws. The Election Board also green-lights the use of the Chesterton town hall as an early satellite voting center in the run-up to the May 8 primary election.

Barry Yarbrough, 41, of Valparaiso, dies after leaving the road and hitting a tree in the 200 block of East. U.S. 6 in Jackson Township. ArcelorMittal posts a net income in 2011 of $2.262 billion or $1.46 per share, compared to $2.916 billion or $1.93 in 2010. More than 230 Dunelanders attend an information session at CHS to hear details about a proposed referendum on a new property tax; Superintendent Dirk Baer tells them “We’re at a precipice, at the edge of a cliff, through no fault of our own.”

Amtrak announces that approval has been given to run high-speed passenger trains from Western Michigan through Northwest Indiana at a top speed of 110 miles per hour; Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, says that Amtrak never notified the county of its high-speed plans. Able Disposal begins distribution of two new 95-gallon rollaway garbage cans to all Chesterton households, one for recycling, the other for refuse; under the terms of the company’s new three-year contract with the town, households receive the rollaways at no charge but recycling collection is put on a biweekly basis.

The CHS debate team wins its fifth consecutive state championship and its 22nd overall, with Victoria Simms and Kalina Smith in Policy leading the way. CHS swimmer Olivia Kabacinski is the only double individual winner at the state finals, taking first in both the 50 Free and the 100 Free, leading her team to a fifth place finish. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources awards the Town of Chesterton a 50/50 $6,500 grant to complete a street-tree inventory, begun several years previously under a prior grant award.

The Duneland School Board votes unanimously to put a new property tax to the voters on a referendum in the May 8 primary election. The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance slashes the Town of Chesterton’s 2012 budget to below its 2011 level, apparently because the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office missed the deadline in September 2011 by which to advertise the 2012 budget. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management orders the Town of Porter to install several monitoring wells on the Brickyard property for the purpose of sampling groundwater, meaning that any work on the site will be delayed for at least a year.

BB gun vandal Dennis Ditterline, 39, of Porter Township, is sentenced to three and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of criminal recklessness; Ditterline admits shooting at moving and parked vehicles on more than 50 different occasions because “Destruction makes me feel better.”

Carl and Carol Bachman of Chesterton celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Donna Montoya, 50, of Westchester Township, is charged with 11 counts of animal neglect and three of harboring non-immunized animals, after Animal Control seized 105 dogs from her residence in January. The father of Dustin McCowan, accused of shooting Amanda Bach to death in September 2011 in Union Township, announces a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of, he says, the real killer; the reward is good for a period of one month; no one ever collects it.

The Discovery Charter School announces an admission lottery because there are more applicants than spots for the 2012-13 school year. CHS speaker Mikaela Meyer qualifies for the NFL tournament in Indianapolis. Porter County Attorney Gwen Rinkenberger is named Juvenile Court Magistrate, replacing the retiring Edward Nemeth. The Porter County Commissioners vote 2-1 to endorse in principle a partnership with the Town of Chesterton, under which the county would pay for the upsizing of a new sanitary sewer line to be installed south of the Indiana Toll Road in incorporated Chesterton, to enable the line to serve any new commercial development along Ind. 49 in unincorporated Liberty Township.

Shawnna Forgus, 22, of Valparaiso, is found murdered in her bedroom at 403 Courtney Street. The first project funded by an $880,000 stormwater bond issue, floated by the Chesterton Stormwater Management Board late in 2011, is approved: the cleaning of the Lincoln Ave. basin. Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, files suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, seeking to nullify the state’s new “right-to-work” statute.

The Discovery Charter School sets its 2012-13 school year enrollment at 436, an increase of 60 pupils. California consultant Shelter Planners of America reports that Porter County needs a new animal shelter of 15,000 to 18,000 square feet, at an estimated cost well over $2 million. Two fishermen pull a dead alligator, 4’ 7’’ in length, from the Kankakee River in Starke County. A “Finding Bigfoot” segment, taped at Indiana Dunes State Park, airs on Animal Planet; the segment was shot after a video showing “something” at the park, appears on YouTube in November 2008.

CHS swimmer Blake Pieroni takes first in the 100 Freestyle at the state championship, leading the team to a fourth place finish. Allen Warnes, 55, the stepfather of Shawnna Forgus, is charged with her murder.

March

Maple Sugar Time is held at Chellberg Farm at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The Porter County Election Board votes to put a referendum for a new property tax of 22 cents per $100 of AV on the May 8 primary election ballot, as requested by the Duneland School Corporation to cover a significant shortfall in the General Fund. Allen Warnes, charged with murdering his stepdaughter Shawnna Forgus, is issued a no-contact order, after members of his household tell investigators that they did not initially report what they saw and heard on the night in question because they fear him.

Kramer & Leonard’s is named Company of the Year by United Way of Porter County, recognizing its volunteerism and execution of innovative ideas. The CHS Academic Super Bowl team wins first place at the sixth annual Academic Super Bowl Invitational at Purdue University North Central; it’s the fourth first-place finish for the team. The CMS Science Olympiad team places first in its division and second overall at the Indiana University Northwest, to advance to state competition.

Tony Davern of Boy Scout Troop 998 earns the rank of Eagle Scout, after completing as his service project the installation of bike racks in the Town of Porter. The Duneland School Board slashes summer school programs for fourth to eighth grades, after the Indiana Department of Education decides to cut the number of summer school classes for which it will reimburse costs. The CHS Jazz Ensemble earns the Group I Gold-Superior rating at the ISSMA’s District Jazz Festival at LaPorte HS.

The Porter County Commission-ers formally make Animal Shelter Interim Director Jon Thomas the permanent director. IDEM announces that it will not, after all, require the Town of Porter to install permanent monitoring wells on the Brickyard property—for now—after determining that the site does not appear to pose a risk to drinking water. Franciscan Alliance dedicates its new cutting-edge free-standing 24-hour ER department on the site of the old Jewel/Osco on Indian Boundary Road.

Ratner Steel Supply Company announces plans to build and equip a $14.25 million 102,000-square foot steel service facility at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor. The CHS speech team wins the North East District national qualifying tournament, sending six more speakers to the NFL tourney in Indianapolis in the summer: Cassidy Peretin, Andrew Hogan, Sharon Coleman, Mike Leopold, Kaylee Oates, and Jennifer Kattalia.

The Town of Burns Harbor and ArcelorMittal renew discussions of a proposal which would extend the company’s current tax abatement to 2023; in exchange, the company would pay off the balance of the town’s outstanding sewer bonds, freeing up $500,000 annually for other municipal needs. John Swanson, executive director of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, announces his retirement, effective on Dec. 31.

Benjamin M. Willlis II, 23, of Liberty Township, is charged with neglect of a dependent in connection with the death of his girlfriend’s 7-month-old son, Keagan Fishel, who an autopsy determines sustained a traumatic brain injury. A rail summit at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton promotes public/private partnerships for freight investment. “The Fire Departments of Westchester Township” opens at the Westchester Township History Museum.

The Chesterton Utility Service Board approves a $750,000 contract with DLZ to engineer a new 1.2-million gallon storage tank and other capital improvements at the wastewater treatment plant, under a long term control plan mandated by IDEM to reduce sewage overflows into the Little Calumet River during heavy rain events. Officer Marty Gonzalez is named Porter Police Officer of the Year by the Police Commission, for the fifth consecutive year.

Duneland Schools Superintendent details the scope of the funding crisis at a speech before the Chesterton/Porter Rotary Club: should the referendum fail to pass, in-school aides would disappear, he says; secretarial staff would be cut by 20 percent; a minimum of 20 teaching positions would be cut; class sizes would increase by a minimum of 10 percent; and the $750,000 spent annually on high-visibility extra-curricular programs would be cut to $500,000.

The Porter County BZA approves a use variance allowing a former landscaping building at 884N 100W in Liberty Township to be converted into a year-round youth softball/baseball practice facility. CHS students win top awards at the Business Professionals of America state contest in Indianapolis: Eric Dreischerf, Sam Fadel, Nathan Finke, Austin Johnson, Will Levi, Brian Miller, Jake Daxe Pullins, Jacob Pruitt, Trent Schreiber, and Jon Vincent.

The Chesterton BZA approves a use variance for a “nano-brewery,” allowing Hunters Brewing LLC to operate at 1535 S. Calumet Road. The Porter Town Council promotes part-time Building Inspector Michael Barry to the newly created position of Development/Building Commissioner.

April

The CHS speech team takes fifth at the state championship in Indianapolis; leading the way are Mike Leopold who places fifth in Broadcasting and Andrew Hogan who takes fourth in Humorous Interpretation. Early voting begins on April 9 in Porter County, one month before the May 8 primary election. Liberty Township residents tell the Porter County Council that they want the Damon Run Conservancy District, not the Town of Chesterton, to provide sanitary sewer service to development along Ind. 49 south of Chesterton’s corporate limit; meanwhile, the County Council mulls a partnership with the town, under which it would pony up an estimated $900,000 to upsize Chesterton’s sewer line to enable it to serve customers in unincorporated Liberty Township.

About 20 people oppose the National Park Service’s plan to close Tremont Road, Furnessville Road, and portions of Hadenfeldt and Veden roads in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, at a public hearing called by the Porter County Commissioners; residents accuse the National Park Service of “bullyism” by forcing folks to find alternative travel routes. Liberty Elementary School fourth-grader Dimitri Nicholson is winner of March Math Facts Madness.

Indiana Department of Revenue Commissioner John Eckart resigns after $205 million in local income tax revenues is discovered not to have been distributed to the state’s counties; a programming error is blamed. A spray-paint vandal causes $5,000 in damage at Coffee Creek Park; a $500 reward is offered for information leading to the vandal’s arrest and conviction. Porter County is slated to receive a total of $6 million in CEDIT funds mistakenly not distributed in 2011 and early 2012; those moneys will be split among the county and its municipalities.

Three former employees at the Porter County Clerk’s Office—Kathleen Tabor, Margaret Hammond, and Diana Kesel—sue County Clerk Karen Martin in federal court, claiming that they lost their jobs without cause, due to age discrimination and political retaliation. Julius Jovan Garza, 19, of Hammond, is charged with murder in the shooting deaths of Jeffery Trinka, 40, of Valparaiso, and Jennifer Guinn, 31, of Hammond, at a Center Township residence. The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance cuts $800,000 from the Duneland School Corporation’s advertised 2012 General Fund; overall, DSC will see a $3.5 million difference between what was projected for all funds and its final appropriated budget.

The Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitor Commission pledges to be proactive and take the fight to the Lake County tourism commission, after the PCCRVC accuses the latter of publicizing false information about tourism in Porter County. The Porter Town Council votes to use $3,000 in CEDIT funds to support the annual fireworks extravaganza at Indiana Dunes State Park.

The Chesterton Town Council mulls the purchase of a trailer-mounted public restroom for Thomas Centennial Park, in place of a proposed brick-and-mortar facility. A man’s body washes up on the beach in Beverly Shores; initial attempts to identify the man are unsuccessful. CHS student Jackie Santos wins first place in Radio Copywriting at the Indiana Association of School Broadcasters competition in Indianapolis. The National Park Service announces plans to cut trees to “restore” the Cowles Bog Wetland Complex to its appearance in the early 20th century, when groundbreaking ecologist Henry Cowles first studied it.

The Burns Harbor Town Council votes to increase from 0.05 cents to 5 cents the property-tax rate for the Cumulative Capital Development fund; to table a proposed 10-year extension of ArcelorMittal’s tax abatement; and to disband the Burns Harbor Economic Development Commission. Chesterton Police Chief Dave Cincoski reports that 95 percent of speeders issued citations or warnings, in a new zero-tolerance crash-reduction blitz, are out-of-towners. Fire causes up to $50,000 in damage to a home in the 600 north block of C.R. 70E in Liberty Township.

Sgt. Joe Christian is promoted to Lieutenant and named the Chesterton Police Department’s new commander of the Patrol Division. Fingerprints identify a body washed up on the beach in Beverly Shores as that of William Hurse, 33, of Benton Harbor, Mich., who was reported missing two months earlier. An elderly Chesterton woman is treated for smoke inhalation after a kitchen fire in the 1100 block of West Indiana Ave.; the fire causes $30,000 in damage.

Paul Gipson is re-elected to his 10th term as president of United Steelworkers Local 6787. The Chesterton Utility Service Board signals its intention to go out for bids soon on the Ind. 49 utility corridor project, whether or not the Porter County Council decides to spend $900,000 in partnership with the town. Mikaela Smith, daughter of Chesterton Lions Club members Robin and Mike Smith, wins the grand prize in the Lions Club International Peace Essay Contest: $5,000 and a trip to New York City for Lions Day at the United Nations.

The Porter County Commission-ers vote to use $1.27 million in CEDIT moneys mishandled by the state to cover the E911 deficit. CHS student Molly Brust is the winner of the cover design contest for the 2012-13 CHS handbook. The CHS Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble both earn Gold-Superior ratings at the ISSMA event at LaPorte HS. A consultant reports that the cost of running the Dunes Kankakee Trail through the Town of Chesterton would cost at least $4.176 million and as much as $6.5 million, depending on the route.

The Indiana Court of Appeals rules that Porter County Clerk Karen Martin rightfully terminated employee Margaret Hammond, who according to court documents was fired for insubordination. The Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce urges a “yes” vote on the new property-tax referendum on the May 8 primary. WDSO hosts its 22nd annual Radiothon fundraiser. U.S. Steel Corporation reports a net loss in the first quarter of $219 million or $1.52 per share, compared to a net loss in the fourth quarter of $211 million or $1.46 and a net loss in the year-ago of $60 million or 60 cents.

The Chesterton Town Council ponies up $2,500 for the fireworks extravaganza at Indiana Dunes State Park. David Moscoe of Chesterton wins the 2012 Justin Dart Personal Achievement Award from the Indiana Association of Rehabilita-tion Facilities, recognizing a person with disabilities who maximizes skills to achieve chosen goals. Ernesto Martinez is named the new director of the Discovery Charter School for the 2012-13 school year.

The Porter County Sheriff’s Merit Board terminates Officer Paul Arnold after finding him in violation of departmental rules in connection with five squad-car crashes in 21 months. “A mill is a terrible place to die”: United Steelworkers Local 6787 dedicates a monument at the union hall to members who lost their lives on the job. Volunteers for Rebuilding Together Duneland 2012 work on a variety of private and public rehab jobs. Report: the estimated cost for a new Porter County Animal Shelter is $2.9 million.

Chesterton Police Capt. George Nelson retires after 38 years of service. The House of Tomorrow, from the 1933-34 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago, is named one of the Most Endangered sites in the state by the not-for-profit Indiana Landmarks.

May

NiSource Inc. reports a net income in the first quarter of $193.4 million or 68 cents per share, compared to a net income in the year-ago of $209.5 million or 75 cents. Fire causes $175,000 in damage to a home in the 2300 block of Dakota Street in Chesterton. Emma Schmidt, 8, is named Poppy Princess by the American Legion Auxiliary Post 170 in Chesterton.

The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance advises Porter County Auditor Robert Wichlinski that he may not offer amnesty to owners of multi-family structures in violation of homestead credit rules. Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain warns of unsafe overcrowding and liability at the Porter County Jail. The Porter County Commissioners reach an agreement with the National Park Service about road closures at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Furnessville, Tremont, and Hadenfeldt roads as well as North Main Street will all remain open.

Sandra Ann Everly, 55, is sentenced to six years after pleading guilty to a fatal OWI in August 2010, in which her passenger, William Hertaus, was mortally injured in an accident at the intersection of U.S. Highway 20 and Waverly Road in Porter. ArcelorMittal’s re-engineered, upgraded, and rationalized heat-treat line at Burns Harbor’s 160-inch plate mill is formally dedicated. The Porter County Park Board votes to accept a horse to be kept at Sunset Hill Farm Park for educational purposes, in addition to the goats already there.

The National Park Service approves a plan for deer management at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; that plan provides for sharpshooters, in addition to non-lethal management methods. A rare Snowy Owl is sighted in a wooded area behind the Duneland School Corporation’s bus barn on C.R. 1050N. A new one-mile trail, dubbed “Rosie’s Ravine,” is opened at the Paul C. Zona Sr. Wildlife Sanctuary in Jackson Township.

A wafer-thin margin of voters cast “yes” ballots in the new property-tax referendum in the May 8 primary election: 4,093 or 50.95 percent vote yea, while 3,940 or 49.05 vote nay; only 13 of Duneland’s 30 precincts vote a majority “yes”; majority “no” precincts include all in the Town of Porter, the single precincts in the towns of Burns Harbor and Dune Acres, both Pine Township precincts, and four of five in Jackson Township.

Incumbent Porter County Commissioner John Evans successfully defends a challenge from Jim Biggs and wins the GOP nomination for his North District seat. Laura Blaney wins the Democrat nomination for the open South District seat on the Porter County Commissioners, defeating Jerry Puckett.

ArcelorMittal reports a net income in the first quarter of $11 million or 1 cent, compared to a net loss in the fourth quarter of $1 billion or 65 cents and a net income in the year-ago of $1.069 billion or 69 cents. The Burns Harbor Town Council listens to neighbors and votes to close the Burns Harbor Police Department’s gun range. The Burns Harbor Town Council also votes to reject a proposed 10-year extension of ArcelorMittal’s tax abatement, set to expire in March 2013.

Gary Brinton of Utah, a principal in the Seven Peaks Waterpark Porter LLC seeks to re-open the old Splash Down Dunes water park facility in Porter. “Tools of the Trade” exhibition opens at the Porter County History Museum. “Mother O’ Mine: A Celebration of Mothers Day” exhibition opens at the Westchester Township History Museum.

The Chesterton Police Depart-ment seizes 35 pounds of marijuana in a traffic stop on I-94 as part of a HIDTA funded drug interdiction operation; Rigoberto Trancoso, 20, of South Bend, is charged with dealing marijuana. Anthony Kuk is named the new director at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, replacing Peter Laman. Announcement: South Shore commuter line passengers will be screened and some regular trains canceled as part of security for the NATO summit in Chicago. The Chesterton First United Methodist Church celebrates its 150th anniversary.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources announces that it has authorization to begin contract negotiations with an unnamed group to develop a restaurant and banquet hall at the Pavilion at Indiana Dunes State Park. Eric Ailes, 9, of Porter, helps to organize Safety Fest, scheduled for June 15 at Hawthorne Park. CHS student Kalvin Ravn is named a winner of the National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Award in Writing for 2012.

Off-duty PCSP Officer Phillip Pratt, a Chesterton native and a 2006 CHS graduate, is killed when he crashes his motorcycle into a pickup truck on Ind. 2 in Washington Township. CHS student Michael Leopold is named the winner of the 12th annual Accepting the Challenge of Excellence Award from the Duneland Exchange Group. Richard Bollinger, 90, of Burns Harbor, dies; Bollinger served on the Burns Harbor Town Council and was a charter member of the Burns Harbor Lions Club.

CHS student Michael Leopold earns the Degree of Premier Distinction from the National Forensic League. The 29th annual W.R. Canright Outstanding Senior Journalist Award is presented to Jessica Hickle of Sandscript and Toni Greco of Singing Sands. CHS student Jackie Santos is named WDSO Most Outstanding Newscaster and student Jake Dieotte Most Outstanding DJ.

CHS 2012 Prom royalty: Queen Sunny Lee and King Jon Vincent. The Duneland Exchange Club names Jacob Pruitt its 2012 Youth of the Year. Roy Ferguson, 48, of Fulshear, Texas, fatally shoots himself after holding hostages at a real estate office on North Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso. The Chesterton Town Council expresses qualms about a proposed trailer-mounted public restroom in Thomas Centennial Park, after questions are raised about the cost of maintaining one and its vulnerability to vandalism.

The Chesterton Redevelopment Commission votes to authorize a maximum bond issue of $3 million for the Ind. 49 utility corridor project, to be repaid with tax increment financing funds. Eagle Scout candidate Eddie Kaczmarek spearheads a trail-cleaning project at the Paul C. Zona Sr. Wildlife Sanctuary in Jackson Township.

June

CHS speakers Andrew Hogan in Dramatic Interpretation and Cassidy Peretin in Extemporaneous Speaking break into the Top 48 at the 61st annual National Catholic Forensic League’s Grand Nationals in Baltimore, Md. The Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce activates a new double-sided electronic sign on Ind. 49, just south of East Porter Ave., on the west side of the roadway. The Indiana Department of Education awards a $69,000 technology grant to the Discovery Charter School.

The CHS speech and debate program names Michael Leopold Most Valuable in the Program. Vale Park Road is closed between Ind. 49 and Silhavey Road—and C.R. 400N is closed between Ind. 49 and Bartz Road—for the construction of an overpass interchange. The United Steelworkers calls ArcelorMittal’s new contract proposals “unacceptable”; the company says it needs to close the competitive labor cost gap between ArcelorMittal USA and non-union minimills and to become sustainable throughout the entire business cycle.

St. Patrick Catholic School holds its second annual Shakespeare Festival. CHS holds its 122nd commencement, as the Class of 2012 graduates in a ceremony in the football stadium. Timothy Gajdik, 33, of Chesterton, dies after crashing his motorcycle on C.R. 875N in Liberty Township. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission slashes Indiana-American Water Comp-any’s proposed income hike of $16.9 million or 8.64 percent to $1.95 million or 1 percent; how that increase will be allocated among the company’s different service areas, including Duneland, remains undetermined.

Utah developer Gary Brinton says that he plans to invest $1.5 million to $2 million on improvements to the former Splash Down Dunes waterpark facility, after closing on the property. Local environmentalist Charlotte Read receives the Ted Falls Memorial Environment-alist of the Year Award from the Indiana Division of the Izaak Walton League. The Chesterton Woman’s Club Art Show’s Best of Show award goes to Judith Rein for her watercolor entitled “5 Boats.”

The Porter County Sheriff’s Police seeks the driver of a Honda Civic who left Gabby Bigman, 21, of Liberty Township, for dead after striking her while she was jogging on C.R. 200W; Bigman sustains two broken vertebrae, a shattered ankle, and a separated ankle. The Chesterton/Porter Rotary Club, in conjunction with United Way’s Success by 6 program, opens a Learning Trail at Lakeland Park in Burns Harbor. The Chesterton Town Council receives two quotes for a trailer-mounted restroom, the lowest for $48,945.

The Burns Harbor Town Council, without discussion, replaces Town Marshal Craig Barnes with Mike Heckman, effective immediately. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources dedicates the Dunes Creek daylighting project near the Pavilion parking area at Indiana Dunes State Park. The Burns Harbor Fire Department seeks to establish an advanced life support municipal ambulance service; $75,000 from the Cumulative Capital Development fund, $50,000 from the Rainy Day Fund, and $50,000 in donations from the local businesses would provide start-up money for the service.

The Porter County Sheriff’s Police says the driver of a hit-and-run Honda Civic in Liberty Township may be keeping the car in a garage or under a tarp; investigators are contacting body shops. CHS students Andrew Hogan and Jack McCrum advance to the octofinals before being eliminated in the NFL’s national tournament in Indianapolis, the 41st in which the CHS speech and debate team has competed. A Family Express gas station and convenience store is proposed for the parcel at 77 E. U.S. 6 in Liberty Township, on a parcel owned by St. Andrews Development, near the new Porter Regional Hospital.

CHS teacher Dave Bullock creates a wearable writing pad, the Scribbleband, chosen as one of Top 10 New Products by trends magazine Top Ten Wholesaler. Leonel Dominguez, 33, of Bronx, N.Y., is swept away after his inflatable raft capsizes in Lake Michigan off Beverly Shores in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; his body is recovered a week later. Gov. Daniels is named the next president of Purdue University.

The Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission hears opposition to a proposal to allow farming on 175 acres at Coffee Creek Center; Robert Rhoda would farm corn, soy beans, wheat, or hay but have no animal operations. Bill Cantrell Day is proclaimed in the Town of Porter, to honor the outgoing Town Council member, who took office on Jan. 1 but tendered his resignation for health reasons. Anthony R. Rodriguez, 24, of Chesterton, is charged with criminal recklessness, after he’s accused of taking an alligator from a pond at Zao Island in Valparaiso in July 2011 and encouraging a young boy to pet it; the boy did and was bitten.

Bids for the Ind. 49 corridor are lower than expected; the Chesterton Redevelopment Commission urges the Porter County Council to partner with the town for considerably less than originally anticipated. The Chesterton Woman’s Club Art Show’s Most Popular award goes to Ivan Chermel’s sculpture, “The Trainer.” Chesterton Redevelopment Commission Member Jim Ton apologizes for an hour-long NIRPC presentation at the commission’s May meeting, at which NIRPC representatives failed to address members’ questions about the Dickinson Road extension but did talk a lot about other things.

Chesterton Park Superintendent Bruce Mathias suggests that CHS Building Trades students construct a public restroom at Thomas Centennial Park as a class project. Porter County Council Dan Whitten announces his opposition to the creation of a TIF district around the new hospital, calling it a “backdoor tax” unfair to residents. Former Purdue University dean Marilyn Haring announces that, in opposition to the choice of Gov. Daniels as PU’s next president, she is dropping a $1 million gift to the school from her will.

July

Chesterton resident Peter Wilson returns home after bicycling 1,626 miles across the country to raise funds for the House of Hope Orphanage in Uganda. A new 11-ton granite columbarium is delivered to Chesterton cemetery, with 60 double niches for the interment of ashes. Storms knock out power to 40,000 NIPSCO customers.

Chesterton/Porter Rotary Club installs its new president, Brock Lloyd, who succeeds Chuck Parkinson. Thousands celebrate Independence Day at the fourth annual fireworks extravaganza at Indiana Dunes State Park; stifling heat does not smother the fun at the Family Fourth Fest the next day at Hawthorne Park, sponsored by the Duneland Business Initiative Group, the Porter Parks and Recreation Department, and the Chesterton Lions Club. Horizon Bancorp acquires Heartland Bancshares of Franklin, Ind.

“The Lives and Legacies of William and Flora Richardson” opens at the Westchester Township History Museum, in conjunction with the “The Photography of William D. Richardson” at the Braver Museum of Art at Valparaiso University. The Porter County Commissioners vote to dissolve the Animal Shelter Advisory Board, after resignations whittle membership to less than a quorum. Brian Shafer resigns as business director of the Memorial Opera House and manager of the Porter County Expo and Fairgrounds.

Corey McFry, 15, of Portage, drowns at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk site at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Leslie (Norm) and Dorothy Mork of Jackson Township celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. The Chesterton Town Council abandons the idea of a trailer-mounted restroom at Thomas Centennial Park. Contract negotiations formally commence between ArcelorMittal and the United Steelworkers. The Burns Harbor Town Council approves the purchase of two reconditioned diagnostic monitors for $28,000, appropriates $125,000 in start-up funds for a new advanced life support municipal ambulance service, and tells Fire Chief Bill Arney to advertise for paramedics to staff the service.

The Duneland School Board bids farewell to retiring Support Services Director Mark McKibben, retiring after 19 years; the board also names a new CMS principal, Mike Megyesi, to replace Craig Stafford, transferred to CHS as a new assistant principal. A Democrat caucus elects David Wodrich to the 1st District seat on the Porter Town Council, to replace Bill Cantrell, who resigned his seat for health reasons.

Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa vacates the Aug. 13 trial date for Dustin McCowan, charged with the murder of Amanda Bach, after defense attorney John Vouga says he needs more time to prepare his case; Vouga files a motion for a change of venue and one to suppress dog-tracking evidence. Jonnathan Fuller, 38, formerly of Michigan City, is sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to neglect of a dependent; the CPD says that Fuller tried to lure a local girl into running away with him. The 2012 Relay for Life is held at CMS; a violent thunderstorm doesn’t ruin the fun or the spirit of the event.

The Friends of Indiana Dunes marks 30 years in a celebration at the Library Service Center. The old Bethlehem Steel hunting lodge in Jackson Township burns to the ground. The Chesterton Utility Service Board and Indiana-American Water Company announce their intention to go after customers who disconnect their water service to use wells, in violation of Town Code.

Two sappers from Valparaiso’s 713th Engineer Company are killed in combat in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan: Spc. Sergio Eduardo Perez of Crown Point and Spc. Nicholas Andrew Taylor of Berne, Ind. An overnight storm dumps 2.8 inches of rain on Duneland and topples trees; lightning is suspected as the cause of a fire which destroys a contractor’s workshop in the 100 block of U.S. Highway 6 in Liberty Township.

The Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission votes 4-1 to endorse an ordinance which would permit farming on 136 acres at Coffee Creek Center, after the Lake Erie Land Company agrees to eliminate from the deal the 39 acres closest to Morgan’s Corner. A settlement ends Save the Dunes and the Hoosier Environmental Council’s challenge of an IDEM permit granted to ArcelorMittal allowing the construction of a landfill at the facility; as part of the settlement, ArcelorMittal must test the soil after cleaning up one of the largest piles of steelmaking waste materials on the property.

The 2012 Porter County Fair royalty: Queen Katelyn Marak of Valparaiso; Miss Congeniality Brita Ringas of Westchester Township. A morning rush-hour storm leaves 60,000 NIPSCO customers in the dark. ArcelorMittal reports a net income in the second quarter of $959 million or 62 cents per share, compared to $11 million or 1 cent in the first quarter and $1.535 billion or 99 cents in the year-ago. The Porter Town Council votes to begin condemnation proceedings to acquire a parcel needed for the Brickyard Trail, after the council and the owner of the property—located at the southwest corner of U.S. 20 and Howe Road—are unable to agree on a price.

Report: the Discovery Charter School places second overall on the ISTEP among the state’s 45 charter schools. Report: Porter County’s total assessed valuation falls by $360 million or 2.7 percent in 2012. Liberty Intermediate School is burglarized and iPads and iBooks stolen. The Northwest Indiana Redevelopment Authority pledges to help NICTD to create a new 15-year plan, the cost of which is estimated at $500,000; items likely to be addressed by the plan include the West Lake expansion of lines to Lowell and Valparaiso.

NiSource posts a net income in the second quarter of $69.4 million or 25 cents per share, compared to $40.2 million or 14 cents in the year-ago. U.S. Steel posts a net income in the second quarter of $101 million or 62 cents per share, compared to a net loss in the first quarter of $219 million or $1.52 and a net income in the year-ago of $222 million or $1.33. The Travel Center of America in Porter is robbed at gunpoint and $1,647 stolen. The Porter County Council votes 5-2 to partner with the Town of Chesterton and participate in the Ind. 49 utility corridor project, at a cost of $740,409.

August

The 54th annual Chesterton Art Fair is held in Hawthorne Park in Porter. NiSource representatives ring the closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange to commemorate 50 years of trading on the NYSE; the company is also celebrating the centennial of the Northern Indiana Public Service Company. The Porter County Highway Department works with IDEM and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to obtain the proper permits, after beginning a bridge replacement project over Coffee Creek on 1100N without those permits.

Twenty-nine employees at Trailer Transit Inc. in Porter share a $2 million Powerball win. Low bidder LGS Plumbing Inc. of Crown Point is awarded the $2,888,865 contract for the Ind. 49 utility corridor project. Standard & Poore’s Rating Services cuts ArcelorMittal’s long-term credit rating from BBB to BB+. The CFD holds its 11th annual Street Dance. Report: St. Patrick Catholic School outperforms all Duneland Schools as well as the Discovery Charter School on the ISTEP.

“Prehistoric Porter County” opens at the Porter County Museum of History. The Burns Harbor Town Council votes to spend $38,500 on a used ambulance and in so doing formally authorizes the BHFD to establish a 24-hour advanced life support municipal ambulance service. Life Fest 2012 spreads the anti-suicide message in Duneland.

The Westchester Public Library Board of Trustees cuts its 2013 budget by $165,286 to keep the unit’s maximum levy increase to no more than the 2.8 percent allowed; no reductions in service are anticipated. Liberty Middle School is burglarized and computers and AV gear valued at $5,500 stolen. The seventh annual Party in the Park, sponsored by the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce, is held at Thomas Centennial Park.

The Duneland School Corpora-tion regroups after a lackluster ISTEP performance in 2012, which ranked it sixth out of seven school corporations in Porter County. Chief Ranger Mike Bremer tells the PCCRVC that poor decisions by beach visitors are a chief factor in drownings at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; the park has seen 18 drowning deaths since 1994, with 14 of the victims under the age of 25. The Chesterton Town Council asks contracted financial consultant London Witte Group to review the CFD’s proposal for an advanced life support municipal ambulance service; the CFD estimates that such a service could potentially yield a surplus revenue of $50,000 to $140,000 annually.

The Porter BZA affirms written commitments for a waterpark operation on the grounds of the old Splash Down Dunes: they include the hours of operation, the maximum length of rides, and parking lot regulations. Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa schedules Dustin McCowan’s murder trial for Feb. 4, 2013; he refuses to change the venue of the trial. The Porter County BZA votes to allow construction of the 10,000 square foot First Christian Church of Chesterton at the southeast corner of Ind. 49 and U.S. 6 in unincorporated Liberty Township.

United Steelworkers Local 6787 President Paul Gipson calls contract talks with ArcelorMittal “ugly,” 10 days before the current contract expires. Motorcyclist Grady Royal, 60, of Michigan City, dies after striking a second vehicle on U.S. 20 in Pine Township. The 2012-13 school year begins for Duneland students, with first-day enrollment up marginally, by 12 students. The Discovery Charter School begins its third year of operation.

The Chesterton/Duneland Cham-ber of Commerce holds its 2012 awards luncheon: Kym Groceman is the Duneland Distinguished Woman, Joyce Recktenwall wins the Golden Achievement Award, Best Buddies Pet Pantry is the Humanitarian of the Year, and Leslie Plesac and Laurie Wehner-Evans are the Volunteers of the Year. Staff and patients move into Porter Regional Hospital; 35 ambulances transport 95 patients and six “hot” trucks carry patient care equipment; roads are closed in Valparaiso to facilitate the move.

A fundraiser is held at The Boiler Room in Chesterton to benefit Gabby Bigman, 21, who was left with a stack of medical bills after a hit-and-run driver left her for dead on C.R. 200W earlier in the summer; investigators have put in 100 man-hours to date but are left with few leads. The United Steelworkers calls a new contract proposal from ArcelorMittal “dangerous,” with no light at the end of the tunnel four days before the current contract expires. The Porter Police Department’s K-9, Nicky, dies unexpectedly of a turned stomach, after surgery to repair a bulging disk.

The Chesterton Town Council votes 3-1 to authorize Clerk-Treasurer Gayle Polakowski to establish a “reverting fund” in the 2013 budget, a first step to establishing an advanced life support municipal ambulance service; that vote does not, however, authorize the CFD to purchase ambulances or equipment or to hire paramedics. The Chesterton Redevelopment Commission begins a $69,640 engineering study of the Dickinson Road extension, in an effort to persuade NIRPC to include the project in its 2040 plan and thus make it eligible for federal funding. The Porter County Commissioners pledge to make $2 million in CEDIT funds available to the Porter County Council to cover budget shortfalls.

September

The third annual Veterans Bash at the American Legion Post 170 features live music all day on Labor Day Sunday to raise funds for Purdue North Central’s Veterans’ Organization. WDSO begins its 36th year of broadcasting at CHS. The United Steelworkers and ArcelorMittal fail to reach a new contract by deadline; the union opts not to strike, while warning members of the possibility of a lockout. Former long-time Chesterton couple Bud and Mavis Schrader celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

More than a week after the previous contract expired, the United Steelworkers and ArcelorMittal reach a new three-year contract; the USW claims victory, attributes it to membership solidarity, and says that the union “successfully defended our wages and pensions from management’s attempt to drive them down.” Chesterton resident Tom Lee tells the Chesterton Town Council that the lack of sidewalks along 1100N, between the Rose Hill Estates subdivision and 11th Street, is putting children in peril. Dunelanders remember the martyrs of 9-11 at a ceremony at Coffee Creek Center. CHS students Elizabeth Benson and Spencer Gordon are named National Merit Scholarship finalists.

The Wizard of Oz Festival is held in Downtown Chesterton. Some $71.3 million in stimulus funding is awarded to INDOT for the upgrade of rail lines in Northwest Indiana, including the Porter choke point; 703 jobs will be created during the 20-month construction period and, when completed, an 11.6 minute reduction in delay times for all train types is projected. The Porter County Election Board okays the use of the Chesterton town hall as an early voting satellite center in the run-up to the general election on Nov. 6.

Westchester Public Library Director Phil Baugher rejects the idea of a bookmobile for the homebound, saying that the township is too small to support the initiative. The Duneland Resale Shop celebrates its third year at 801 Broadway, the former home of the Costas and then the WiseWay groceries. Sticker shock: the low bid for the Val’s lift station is $205,888, nearly a quarter of the $880,000 stormwater bond issue and at least 65 percent higher than the projected cost; Chesterton Town Engineer Mark O’Dell hopes to shave $13,000 to $20,000 off the price by tweaking the project specs.

Brass tacks at the Porter County Council’s 2013 budget hearing: a projected revenue loss of $1.7 million from the state’s property-tax circuit breakers; $1.5 million needed to open and staff the third pod at the Porter County Jail; and $2 million needed to cover the E911 deficit; and none of that includes a staggering spike in employee health care costs. The Porter County Commissioners chip in $12,000 for an engineering consultant to design three miles of a Calumet Trail spur from Mineral Springs Road to the Dune Park Station; when completed, the trail will link Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park.

The National Park Service wants to build a cobble berm in the waters off Beverly Shores to combat beach erosion caused by man-made structures like the Michigan City Harbor, which divert the natural flow of sand to the west. The Out of the Darkness Walk is held at Coffee Creek Center in support of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention; the family and friends of Jenna Marie O’Reilly, on Team Remembering Jenna, participate.

The National Institute of Corrections releases its report on the Porter County Jail: “immediate action” is needed to open the third pod to alleviate overcrowding; Sheriff Dave Lain, in a letter to county officials, says that the most urgent issue is the paucity of medical staffing. CHS Homecoming royalty: King Brian Lesnick and Queen Rachel McCrum. Burns Harbor residents remonstrate at a rare field hearing held by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, opposing a spike in the Cumulative Capital Development property-tax rate, which would increase annual revenues from $29,805 to $202,066.

The Chesterton Town Council schedules a public hearing on the proposed sale for $25,000, by the Parks and Recreation Department, of a lot in the Dunewood Estates subdivision originally intended for development as a community park; although the purchasing couple wants to build a home on the lot, the town makes no representation that the lot is in fact buildable. CHS student Matrika Laster is a National Achievement Scholarship semi-finalist. The State Board of Accounts raps a no-bid purchase by the Porter County Opera House of $150,145 in audio gear.

The 713th Engineer Company, headquartered in Valparaiso, returns home, in a reunion joyful but also sad, with six of its sappers killed in the line of duty: during its deployment in Afghanistan the 713th conducted 371 missions and cleared 14,000 miles of roads. U.S. Marine Cpl. Josh Bleill is the keynote speaker at the 11th annual Community Prayer Breakfast. The Porter County BZA voted 5-4 to grant a design variance which would allow the construction of an air-inflated dome at The Courts of Northwest Indiana in Liberty Township, for six indoor tennis courts. Report: the estimated cost of a federally mandated positive train control system on the South Shore commuter line, to be in place by the end of 2015, is $35 million.

Hooked on Art, Chesterton Cruise Night, and the European Market make for a great final Saturday in September. Jonnathan Fuller, serving time after pleading guilty to trying to lure a Chesterton girl to run away with him, is charged with the murder of Sylvia Marie Jones, whose skeletal remains were found buried in the Dunes in Gary; the case was investigated by CPD Det. Lt. Dave Adkins and Det. Jamie Copollo. The Porter County Plan Commission gives plat approval to the St. Andrews Medical Campus on 83 acres adjacent to Porter Regional Hospital; Family Express takes a gas station off the table but still wants to build a convenience store on the property.

October

Porter County Council President Dan Whitten blows a gasket at a meeting, after it’s confirmed that the Porter County Commissioners did not collect bids for a contract to conduct an ADA compliance study, as Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, said they had. The CFD holds its first annual Lights and Sirens Parade, to kick off National Fire Prevention Week. The CHS Trojan Guard advances to ISSMA regional competition after earning a Gold-Superior rating at district competition at Concord HS in Elkhart.

The Perfect Pint Festival is held at Hawthorne Park in Porter. The National Park Service scraps the Ly-Co-Ki-We and Inland Marsh names for more historic ones: the former is renamed the Glenwood Dune Trail, the latter the Tolleston Dunes. The BHFD contains 1,000 gallons of sulfuric acid after a spill in the Pilot Travel Center parking lot. A faulty electrical outlet is suspected in a house fire in the 1400 block of Veden Road; the CFD estimates damage at $30,000.

The Chesterton Town Council votes on first reading to sell a lot in the Dunewood Estates subdivision belonging to the Park Department for $25,000, to a couple looking to build a home on it; a resident of the subdivision objects on the ground that it was her understanding that, even if a community park was never developed on the lot, it would remain open space. The CHS Trojan Guard takes first in Class A competition and earns the highest scores in Music Performance, General Effect, and Visual Performance in competition in New Lenox, Ill.

The Porter Park Board appears prepared to reverse its earlier decision not to allow former superintendent Jim Miller to rescind his resignation, when it announces that it will discuss employee reorganization at a future meeting and will likely offer Miller a full-time position. The Chesterton Stormwater Management Board awards the contract for the Val’s lift station to low bidder Woodruff & Sons, with the understanding that an effort will be made to shave 20 percent off the $205,888 price by modifying the project’s specs.

SafeCo Insurance names Mike Anton of Chesterton a Community Hero, one of 15 insurance agents around the country so recognized. NIPSCO projects historically low natural-gas bills during the 2012-13 winter heating season. Long-time Duneland residents Peter and Louise Crumpacker celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary.

The Porter County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office moves to dismiss a murder charge against Allen Warnes, 55, accused of killing his stepdaughter, Shawnna Forgus, after witnesses recant; those witnesses previously told investigators that they were fearful of Warnes. Ground is ceremonially broken on the Ind. 49 utility corridor project. Ex-Animal Shelter employee Rebecca Carroll files suit in federal court against the Porter County Commissioners, alleging that she was terminated after reporting to county officials instances of animal neglect and abuse.

Alan Zimmerman, 44, of Chesterton, is sentenced to 57 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture and distribute; two years earlier, law enforcement agencies seized 852 plants and 22 kilograms of marijuana in his home in the Villages of Sand Creek. The Porter County Council votes 4-3 to freeze budgets; President Dan Whitten walks out of the meeting after a line item for veterans’ services is decreased by $6,000 to $90,000; immediately after his leaving, his colleagues vote to restore the $6,000.

The CHS Trojan Guard advances to semi-state competition after regional competition in Lafayette. Chesterton Fire Chief Mike Orlich makes a presentation on a proposed advanced life support municipal ambulance service and fields hostile questions from the public; Orlich vows that the service would be killed if it fails to pay for itself. The Chesterton Utility Service Board votes to endorse a sanitary sewer rate hike of 6 percent—which would increase the average household’s bimonthly bill from $76.80 to $81.26—to pay for the costs of the federally mandated long term control plan.

Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, accuses Porter County Council members Jim Biggs, Jeremy Rivas, Jim Polarek, and Sylvia Graham of playing Russian roulette with county budgets. The Burns Harbor Town Council votes to enact a monthly $4.12 fire hydrant fee, to cover the $70,000 which the town pays annually to Indiana-American Water Company for its 89 hydrants. The United Steelworkers ratifies a new three-year contract with ArcelorMittal but Local 6787 President Paul Gipson urges members to “save their money” because “three years is not that far away.”

Lorain Bell, owners of L.A. Bell Motor Lines Inc. and a long-time member of the Porter BZA, dies at 76. Record numbers participate in early voting. Porter County Commissioner John Evans and Porter County Council Member Jim Biggs squabble over salary increases in the failed 2013 budget. A World War II exhibit opens at the Westchester Township History Museum. The Porter Town Council authorizes the expenditure of $14,845 in CEDIT funds to acquire a new K-9, after the death of Nicky in August.

The Chesterton/Duneland Cham-ber of Commerce’s trick-or-treat event in Downtown Chesterton is a huge success. U.S. Steel Corporation posts a net income in the third quarter of $44 million or 23 cents per share, compared to $101 million or 62 cents in the second quarter and $22 million or 15 cents in the year-ago. Hurricane Sandy’s backwash slams into the southern Lake Michigan shoreline, with winds as high as 60 miles per hour and waves as high as 21 feet; but low lake levels lessen the impact of the storm.

ArcelorMittal posts a net loss of $709 million or 46 cents per share, compared to a net income in the second quarter of $959 million or 62 cents and a net income of $659 million or 43 cents in the year-ago. The Indiana Department of Education releases its grades on Duneland schools: Brummitt Elementary goes to a C from an A in 2011, Bailly Elementary to a B from an A, and CMS to a D from an A.

November

The Duneland School Corpora-tion: the Indiana Department of Education’s grades of Duneland schools—some of them disappointing—are “slanted” and not appropriate. The Indiana Real Estate Commission permanently revokes the real-estate broker’s license of Don Johnson, after the IREC says that Johnson failed to comply with the terms of a settlement reached in June, under which he agreed to pay $15,000 in restitution to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office; the IREC found that Johnson violated the Mortgage Rescue Protection Fraud Act and that he is “unfit to practice,” among other things.

The Burns Harbor Fire Department’s 24-hour advanced life support municipal ambulance service begins. Carl Griffith Sr., 72, of Portage, is shot to death in front of his home. NiSource posts a net income in the third quarter of $19.3 million or 3 cents per share, compared to $34.7 million or 12 cents in the year-ago.

For the first time in memory, Democrats sweep every countywide race on Election Day: Laura Blaney takes the open South District seat on the Porter County Commissioners; Dan Whitten and Sylvia Graham are re-elected to the Porter County Council and Bob Poparad is elected to an at-large seat; Kevin Breitzke is re-elected Surveyor; and Bill Alexa is re-elected to his seat on the bench of Porter Superior Court II. Meanwhile, in the non-partisan Duneland School Board races, John Marshall and Kristin Kroeger win lopsided victories, Marshall winning an open seat and Kroeger beating incumbent Nick Jurasevich; both Marshall and Kroeger supported the new property-tax referendum. Despite the Democrat sweep, straight-ticket voting points to a deep partisan rift in Porter County, with 43 percent of all voters going straight-ticket in 2012, compared to 37 percent in 2008.

Seven Peaks Waterpark Duneland announces the opening of the old Splash Down Dunes on Memorial Day 2013. State Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City—whose district includes a slice of Duneland—is named to serve as the Democrat House Speaker in the 118th General Assembly. The Westchester Public Library announces a pilot program under which selected newspapers and magazines will be loaded onto computer tablets.

The Indiana Association of School Principals names CHS Assistant Principal Kevin Zeck as the 2012 District Secondary Assistant Principal for IASP District I. Mark Chamberlain, CEO of Lakeside Wealth Management of Chesterton, is named to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. The Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department douses a flue pipe fire in the 800 north block of C.R. 200W in Liberty Township, then eight hours later extinguishes a fully involved fire burning the demolished remains of a barn in the 1000 north block of C.R. 400E in Jackson Township.

CSX conductor Benjamin Knipp sues CSX in federal court, claiming that he sustained injuries in the three-train derailment in Jackson Township in January. The Burns Harbor Town Council votes to make the entire town a single voting district, in which all five council members will be elected at large. The Duneland Historical Society remembers the Save the Dunes Council in its 60th anniversary year. Edward Ibarra, 24, of Valparaiso, is sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the fatal shooting in 2009 of Ibarra’s mother’s fiancee, Juan Garcia, 33.

Over 600 attend Dancing Like the Stars, a fundraiser for the Duneland Family YMCA. The Porter Park Board names Jim Miller, for 24 years the superintendent, the new specialist in charge of maintenance of grounds, facilities, and trails; a search begins for a new park director. The Porter County Commissioners okay a new health care plan for employees, giving them the option of increased deductibles or of a health savings account; employees are warned that if they do not enroll in one or the other during the window, they will not receive health coverage.

Report: less than half of the workers hired for RDA projects reside in Lake or Porter counties. Hundreds brave the cold weather to watch the annual Twilight Christmas Parade in Downtown Chesterton, hosted by the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce. Bross Enterprises sues the Town of Chesterton and Town Council Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, claiming the discriminatory enforcement of Town Code. The Chesterton Town Council votes to borrow $400,000 from the Utility to cover budget shortfalls caused by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance’s cuts earlier in the year.

Announcement: Strack & Van Til to buy WiseWay Supermarkets; Strack President David Wilkinson tells the Chesterton Tribune that the transition will be mostly seamless. Janet Schweitzer wins the Westchester Public Library’s photo contest with a shot of a deer on the beach. NICTD Transit Police seek Jawaun Dontell Woods, 24, of Gary, suspected of slashing a man’s throat and stabbing him in a robbery in the restroom of the East Chicago South Shore train station. Dr. James Lane, preeminent historian of Northwest Indiana, is the winner of the Indiana Historical Society’s 2012 Dorothy Riker Hoosier Historian Award; Lane is the author of City of the Century: A History of Gary and for almost 30 years produced the invaluable annual Steel Shavings.

December

The 40th annual Ye Olde Madrigal Christmas Feasts are held by the CHS Music Department. The National Park Service announces the finding that the cutting of 3,900 trees at the Cowles Bog Wetland Complex at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will have “no significant” environmental impact; the goal of the project is to “restore” the area to its appearance in the early 20th century, when groundbreaking ecologist Henry Cowles studied it. Porter County Jail inmate Jerome Scott files suit in federal court against Sheriff David Lain and others, alleging bad conditions in the jail.

Dunewood Estates residents blast the Chesterton Park Board for the sale to a private party of a lot in the subdivision which had been deeded to the Parks and Recreation Department for development as a community park; residents say, among other things, that the $25,000 selling price is far below what they paid for their own lots. CMS seventh-grader Carol Dilts performs in the Joffrey Ballet’s 25th anniversary presentation of Nutcracker in Chicago.

Frederick Cashner Jr., 56, of Jackson Township, pleads guilty to the murder in April 2011 of his wife, Cynthia Cashner, 51, at her business; he faces a term of 45 years in prison. The Porter County Park Board votes officially to designate an area southeast of the main parking lot at Sunset Hill Farm Park as the site of the proposed 10,000 square foot Raise-the-Barn activity center. The buyer of the Chesterton Park Department’s lot in the Dunewood Estates subdivision backs out of the deal.

Wilson Rivera, 38, of Indianapolis, is shot to death in Portage, in what investigators say may not have been a random shooting. Liberty Intermediate School fifth-grader Daniel Alexander collects over 250 toys and $600 in cash and gift cards for sick kids at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital. A group of Dunes Acres residents file a motion in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, to stop the National Park Service from cutting 3,900 trees in the Cowles Bog Wetland Complex; a day later, a federal judge rejects the motion on procedural grounds.

The Porter Town Council establishes a riverfront development area including the former Spa banquet center, vacant for 10 years, after confirming that an experienced regional caterer is in the process of acquiring the Spa property; the riverfront designation will make more liquor licenses available in town. After Indiana-American Water Company tells the Burns Harbor Town Council that the monthly fire hydrant fee—estimated in the summer at $4.12—could in fact be as high as $14, the BHTC revises that new estimate downward, to $5.30.

Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa grants a motion by the accused murderer of Amanda Bach, Dustin McCowan, to suppress dog-tracking evidence at McCowan’s trial, scheduled for Feb. 4. A key witness in investigators’ case against Dontaye Singletary and Sheaurice Major, charged with murder-for-hire in the shooting death of Carl Griffith Sr. at his home in Portage, is herself shot to death in Gary; the Portage PD vows not to be deterred. Jawaun Dontell Woods, charged with attempted murder and robbery resulting in serious bodily injury in connection with a stabbing in the restroom room of the East Chicago South Shore train station, is apprehended in Indianapolis after being stabbed himself and transported to Lake County Jail.

Save the Dunes, the Hoosier Environmental Council, and others urge the state to scrutinize the Enbridge Energy pipeline replacement project, which will traverse Duneland, entering it in Liberty Township, then moving into Jackson Township, before exiting in Pine Township. CHS student Jacob Korba of Boy Scout Troop 929 completes his Eagle Scout service project at Opportunity Enterprise’s Respite Home.

“A Boomer Christmas: Toys and Gifts from the 50s and 1960s” opens at the Westchester Township History Museum. A rumor of violence at a CHS homecoming pep rally prompts school officials and local law enforcement to take precautionary measures; the source of the rumor is never determined but the pep rally is canceled.

Urschel Laboratories Inc. announces that it is moving its corporate HQ, manufacturing facility, and 300-plus well paying jobs from Valparaiso to Coffee Creek Center in Chesterton; the company says that it’s acquired 160 acres on the property and will begin construction in the second quarter of 2013. Ryan Schroeder, 27, of Liberty Township, is convicted on 23 felony counts, after Tara Tryon, 22, of Wanatah, testifies that he convinced her to molest a Chesterton boy and video the molestation; Tryon still faces her own trial. Chesterton Town Engineer Mark O’Dell tells the Stormwater Management Board that work will begin on the Val’s lift station in January.

 

Posted 12/31/2012