The Burns Harbor Town Council on Wednesday authorized consultant Cender &
Company to do a financial analysis related to the town’s possible annexation
of NIPSCO’s Bailly generating station north of U.S. 12.
The annexation was mentioned this summer during preparation of the town’s
2014 budget. Last night, councilman Gene Weibl said since that time there
have been friendly discussions between Burns Harbor and the utility.
After the meeting Weibl said the council realizes that, under current state
law, an annexation likely couldn’t take place unless it would be favorable
to NIPSCO so the company wouldn’t remonstrate.
The Cender study will look at NIPSCO’s potential tax impact as part of Burns
Harbor instead of unincorporated Porter County, and how the annexation could
be structured to be more palatable to NIPSCO.
Weibl said no annexation is impending at this time and even if none takes
place, a dialogue has been opened with NIPSCO and the utility might agree to
be a willing partner with the town on future projects.
In 1985 NIPSCO and the Town of Porter negotiated an agreement that has
NIPSCO pay Porter an annual amount for police/fire protection and snow
removal; this year the payment is $150,000. Weibl said the payment is a fee
for services that could be provided by Burns Harbor if Bailly becomes part
of the town.
Non-Taser use reviewed
Councilman Jeff Freeze said he wants to revisit the town’s current ban
against Burns Harbor police officers using Tasers to subdue suspects.
A Taser is considered by some to be a non-lethal means of bringing about
compliance through temporary neuromuscular incapacitation.
Freeze said Taser technology has evolved and Burns Harbor should look at
situations where deadly force is not advisable yet police need another way
to subdue someone. Town marshal Mike Heckman said July and August this
summer were especially bad for his department, and twice in the last two
weeks he had to physically fight with people who refused to go to jail.
A Taser won’t work in every case, he explained, but when an officer merely
puts the red Taser aiming dot on someone they most often surrender, said
Heckman. He added, “The worst fear I have is if you lose a fight, then he’s
got my gun” and could turn it on a responding back-up officer.
Burns Harbor is the only Duneland-area department and possibly only the
second in Porter County not to have authorized use of a Taser, according to
the marshal. Freeze noted police carry guns, which certainly can be lethal.
Weibl expressed reservations. Tasers can be over-used, he said. “Some people
come to rely on it too easily. A Taser’s just a Taser until it kills
Councilman Greg Miller said he thought using Tasers is a good idea and
called for development of a new policy and specialized training for town
officers. Freeze and council president Jim McGee asked about town liability
and risk exposure.
Town attorney Bob Welsh said the question if a Taser were activated would be
whether more force than needed was used in a situation so all officers would
have to go through a certified Taser training program similar to what
officers have to attend to carry a sidearm.
McGee asked Heckman to provide council members with a packet of Taser
information for their consideration.
During his monthly report Heckman said Burns Harbor police handled 405
incidents in August resulting in 18 arrests, all for misdemeanors. There
were four vehicle crashes, two each resulting in property damage and
personal injury. Last month 132 tickets were written as well as 153
verbal/written warnings issued.
Commission to meet
The town’s RDC, which hasn’t met all year, will convene a public meeting
Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at the town hall. The five council members and a
representative from the Duneland School Board comprise the RDC, and the
council set the meeting last night.
The RDC administers property tax revenue collected within a designed
allocation area or TIF district.
Previously the RDC used its $600,000 annual TIF income to make payments on a
prior bond issue sold to install sewer lines throughout the town and upgrade
its sewage treatment plant.
Those bonds are in the process of being paid off in full at a savings of
about $64,000 in interest; now the RDC can consider how else to use the TIF
money in 2014 although there are limitations on where and for what the money
can be spent.
The council also tentatively agreed to meet in closed executive session
Sept. 23 to discuss terms of a possible lease with Chesterton Pop Warner
football league for use of the former Westport Community Club building and
grounds recently donated to the town.
Resident Gayle Van Loon asked if the public will have another chance to
comment on Westport uses prior to a final vote being taken. The council
indicated the public will.
Council member Mike Perrine was absent Wednesday.