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Burns Harbor hires consultant for green development plan

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By PAULENE POPARAD

The Burns Harbor Town Council accepted the proposal of Weaver Boos Consultants to prepare a preliminary green-development plan for the town at a cost not to exceed $10,000.

Weaver Boos civil manager John Talbot told the council Wednesday that Burns Harbor is a community rich in natural assets and has a lot of opportunities to improve its quality of life and economic-development potential.

Council member Gene Weibl said he reached out to Weaver Boos because it has a history of getting grants. Talbot said the firm secured over $5 million in the last three years for Northwest Indiana.

Weibl said with Weaver Boos’ help and influence the town can begin conversations about jump-starting projects in its comprehensive plan, and secure grants for a proposed hike/bike trail along the Little Calumet River. Firm plans could lead to corporate partnerships, he added.

Talbot said not only would his firm identify and prioritize green-development projects without duplicating past studies, but it also would go with town officials to meet potential funding sources like the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority and the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

Weibl said if the town’s concerned about implementation of its goals, it needs help “if we want to get things moving and hit the ground running with the RDA.”

Porter received a $19 million grant from the RDA disbursed in phases to plan and implement its Gateway to the Indiana Dunes tourism/economic-development program along the U.S. 20/Indiana 49 corridors. Some projects are completed or underway now.

Weibl noted that although a bike trail has been proposed to parallel Burns Harbor’s east branch of the Little Calumet River, it could include sidewalks along Haglund Road and additional spurs into other areas of town.

Weaver Boos directed its original proposal to the town’s Advisory Plan Commission last week but the commission doesn’t have money for consultants. Council member and commission president Jeff Freeze asked if the commission should continue with the project now that it’s funded.

The council majority decided to leave oversight with the council adding that in the future the town’s Redevelopment Commission, which hasn’t met this year, might take on some of the individual projects.

The Weaver Boos contract wasn’t on the published agenda. During public comment later in the meeting resident Phyllis Constantine said she keeps reading that the town is short of money, so how can it justify the Weaver Boos expenditure? The $10,000 would be better spent on other projects like road repairs, not on something residents don’t need, she stated.

Replied Weibl, “Working with Weaver Boos will bring far more money to the town than the $10,000. Hold me to that.”

Former Town Council member Cliff Fleming suggested Burns Harbor form a community foundation to accept funds to leverage future grants. He also praised the council decision Wednesday to pay off early a bond issue sold years ago to finance installation of municipal sewers.

Doing so will free up RDC money that during repayment has been totally committed to sewer-bond debt service but now can go to implementing the comprehensive plan, Fleming added.

A public hearing was conducted and no comment heard on the approved appropriation of $1,411,016 to pay off the bonds. That amount includes a temporary $168,100 loan from the rainy day fund that will be repaid in December.

Clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan said state tax officials have to approve the loan to make retiring the bonds next month possible instead of in January, 2016. Early repayment will save $64,000.

Awarded Wednesday were four scholarships to town residents to help continue their education. A scholarship committee disburses revenue the town receives annually by leasing a parcel it owns for a cellular communications tower.

Named as 2013 scholarship recipients and present for their award were Kora Jansen, 18, for Purdue University West Lafayette and Brendan Freeze, 20, for Purdue North Central. Absent were recipients Danielle Friday and Kayla Kerriman.

 

Posted 8/15/2013