Tuesday’s relatively brief Porter County Board of Commissioners meeting to
sign off on establishing new grant funds for physical enhancements to Sunset
Hill Farm County Park triggered the board’s response to the Porter County
Parks Foundation president’s objections to building the new animal shelter
Last week when it was announced that the Foundation had three months ago
renewed a Conservation Reserve Program with the United States Department of
Agriculture for ten years, Foundation president Dave Yeager said putting a
shelter on the Foundation’s parcel along near U.S. 6 would “jeopardize” the
organization’s non-profit status and chided the Commissioners for not doing
their “due diligence” on the land before proposing to build the new shelter
at that spot.
Yeager also said the traffic noises from U.S. 6 would agitate the dogs,
which would disturb neighboring residents with barks and howls.
County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, on Tuesday rejected
Yeager’s lack of diligence criticism saying the intent of his board was to
follow “the chain of command,” by first going to the County Park Board with
their plans to gain its support and then have them take the concept to the
“We did not in any way try to supersede the Foundation,” said Evans.
Evans and fellow County Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, presented
plans to the Park Board at their meeting two weeks ago where they said the
conversation went “terrific” with one member, Craig Kenworthy, speaking in
support of the proposal.
Blaney said the Commissioners went to the park board to see what interest
the members had in the proposal. She said the Commissioners eyed Sunset Hill
Park because it has high visibility and is centrally located based on county
Evans said he does not “believe it to be true whatsoever” that a shelter
would invalidate the non-profits’ status since Foundation receives federal
tax money through the CRP program. Participating in the program, the
Foundation receives a little more than $3,000 a year by agreeing not to
alter the land, such as farming, except for purposes of environmental
Blaney questioned Yeager’s comment that the Foundation would have to pay
money back to the USDA if it the land. She said it might not lose anything
since the renewed term for the CRP does not start until October 1.
If any legal opinion is issued that turning over land for the Shelter would
violate the non-profits’ status then the Commissioners will put the proposal
aside, Blaney said.
Park Board attorney David Hollenbeck, who was in attendance for second
reading on the ordinances to establish the parks grants, told the
Commissioners that he would not be the counsel to give that opinion.
The Commissioners also said the prospective shelter would be built of “state
of the art” materials so sounds would not permeate the walls of the
Evans mentioned that an online petition through the Shelter’s Facebook page
in support of the Shelter at Sunset Hill Farm has garnered more than 900
signatures since last week and claims an opposing petition has secured only
“Clearly a majority of county residents do support the Shelter being there,”
As issues and rumors have caused rifts among the public, Evans and Blaney
said they hope Parks Foundation can hear the proposal based strictly on its
Blaney said she spoke with Yeager and will be discussing the plan with Parks
Foundation members during a meeting Thursday at 2 p.m. in the County
Administration Building, which will be open to the public.
Ken Blaney exits Expo Center
Also on Tuesday, Evans announced that the Commissioners have accepted the
resignation of current Expo Interim Director Ken Blaney and are currently
taking applications for a successor.
Blaney took over operations after former manager Brian Schafer took another
job in August 2012.
Evans lauded Blaney on many processes he implemented at the facility located
at northeast corner of Ind. 49 and Division Rd. including reducing the
annual budget by $80,000 eliminating duplicating items and inefficiencies,
remodeled the kitchen to commercial grade making it more attractive to
renters, increased bookings, set up new sale and profit software, cleaned up
“clutter” in the ledger books, and introduced modern pay methods such as
credit card processing.
“We want to extend our gratitude to Ken for all the work he has done,” Evans
said. Current Expo employees will help operations during the transition
Commissioner Blaney, Ken’s wife, said her husband decided to step down as
his private home improvement business is receiving more work. The Blaneys
co-own One Guy with Tools.
Gary Airport Board appointment
In other business, the Commissioners announced the appointment of Dr. Tom
Cavanaugh to the newly reformed Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority
Changes to the seven-member board were made by state lawmakers this past
year as consulting costs approved by the outgoing board continued to
increase and projects for expansion stalled. Legislation called for an
entire overhaul of the board with Porter County keeping its one seat.
Cavanaugh is a retired Valparaiso orthodontist who has 53 years of
experience as an airline and helicopter pilot and last year was awarded the
Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award from the Federal Aviation Administration.
He replaces former airport authority board member Nicole Thorne who had been
appointed by the Commissioners in January.
Evans said Cavanaugh “will do an excellent job for Porter County” and
expressed optimism that the airport will succeed in being an economic driver
for the region.
Also, the Commissioners talked with Sheriff David Lain about funding the new
medical contract for the rest of the year with money already in assorted
sheriff’s budgets. Lain said he will ask the County Council for transfers to