Chesterton Tribune



Public speaks out at Porter County Commissioners meeting

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Comments from the public took up almost half of Tuesday’s Porter County Board of Commissioners meeting: an unusual event.

First, a Hebron resident spoke out against the rezoning of a parcel at 625 W and 1000 S in Boone Township. The Commissioners approved the rezone from P2, parks and recreation district, to RR, rural residential, on second reading Tuesday after they held a public hearing at their Aug. 11 meeting. Theresa DeLeon, however, said she had planned to speak that day, but she was given the wrong information about the meeting from an employee in the Commissioner’s office.

DeLeon said she showed up about a half hour in advance of the meeting on Aug. 11 only to be told that the meeting was actually Aug. 13. For the record, the employee DeLeon referred to is present at almost every Commissioners meeting as part of her job. DeLeon also said the signs on the property that were legally required to advertise the public hearing were placed on a less traveled side of the property and obstructed by weed growth.

“This has not been handled right,” DeLeon said. “I find this very hard to believe that you cannot give us the proper information and notification. I shouldn’t even be out here today because of this pandemic, and it’s just annoying that you will not give us the proper information.”

DeLeon said the Board shouldn’t vote on the rezone without doing better outreach. “People out there don’t want this, but they won’t come out, and you can’t go door to door because of the pandemic,” she said. “You have some work to do to give us this information.”

Next was Fred Martin, a Kouts resident who’s also the Republican candidate challenging incumbent South Commissioner Laura Blaney on the November ballot. Martin said the Health Department should be more cooperative with people planning events.

Martin said he canceled a Kouts Park Department fundraiser following threats that it would be shut down by police. The same event was held last year and attracted about 100 people who came and went to watch outdoor music and eat, Martin said.

Martin said he was prepared to comply with requirements and provide hand sanitizer and put out signs about social distancing. He filled out the paperwork to the best of his ability, but wasn’t able to answer all the questions. “I was honest and said there were certain things I did not know,” such as the exact number of people who’d show up and where the 4-H Club food trailer would be located,” he said.

Commissioner President Jeff Good (R-Center), said Martin’s concerns were best brought before the Health Board itself. “The Health Department has its own governing body. I would think you would know that, running for office, but that would be where you would go for a public forum,” Good said.

Good also noted that the Health Department has been stretched thin in its efforts to fight COVID-19, and said the Board of Commissioners prefers to give them their autonomy since they’re the experts.

Two pilots who frequently use the Porter County Airport also spoke up about the Board’s appointment of a new Airport Authority Board member. The Board appointed County Councilmember Bob Poparad (D-1st) to the Board earlier in the meeting.

One of the pilots, a Hobart resident, asked about the appointing process and suggested there should be more input from people who use the airport. The other, Andy Dessuit, spoke on behalf of the Region Flyers Flight School, and suggested the same. Dessuit asked how the public and those who use the airport could have more of a voice in board appointments, considering that the airport is taxpayer-funded. “We understand that you want the airport to operate the best for the public, which is what we all want. Our business is based on helping the public, and we want that as well,” he said.

Commissioner Jim Biggs (R-North) said the airport isn’t just a clubhouse for pilots, and he wanted to see somebody on the board who knows about municipal finance as well as about running an airport. “We appoint people to represent the general public, who pays for all of that. Bob has a long history of sitting on the fiscal body of the county,” he said.

Blaney added that Poparad is also a pilot, and that she spoke to people at the airport who supported his appointment. County Attorney Scott McClure suggested people who want to get involved start with the Airport Board itself. The Board or the Airport’s executive director can then bring issues to the Commissioners, he said.



Posted 9/2/2020




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