Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Burns Harbor residents catch a break; hydrant fee revised down

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By PAULENE POPARAD

There was welcome news Wednesday for Burns Harbor residents.

When the Town Council adopted a hydrant fee in October to be assessed on approximately 456 Indiana American Water Co. residential customers there, the new charge was said to be about $4.12 per month.

But in late November an IAWC spokesperson told town officials the actual fee would be closer to $10 or $11 per month, maybe even $14.

Last night, Town Council member Mike Perrine apologized for the confusion and said after discussing it again with IAWC, he’s now being advised the fee will be $5.30 per month. He also noted as more single-family homes and apartment complexes are built, the fee can be spread over the expanded user base and hopefully absorb or make lower what would be future increases.

The fee will shift the burden of paying for maintenance of IAWC hydrants used for fire protection from the town itself to residents. Burns Harbor and Porter were the last communities in the state that did not pass along the hydrant fee; Porter finalized its fee adoption Tuesday night.

Burns Harbor councilman Gene Weibl said since all the people in town benefit from having fire hydrants, the council should investigate how to bill residents who rely on well water instead of IAWC.

Town attorney Bob Welsh said whether the town or IAWC could do such billing can be investigated after the new year. “It’s hard to escape the argument of people in the IAWC system that they’re shouldering the freight.”

Fire chief Bill Arney said it’s his understanding IAWC would bill non-customer residents if the town provides the correct information. The council briefly discussed whether businesses, not just residential users, should be billed also but no conclusion was reached.

No 2013 raise for clerk

The Town Council on split votes passed a 2013 salary ordinance that for a second year did not include a pay increase for elected clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan. Council members did not hike their own pay, which has remained at $4,000 annually for several years.

Next year full-time employees will get a $1,000 raise, Police Department employees a $1,500 raise, and some part-time clerks and the Fire Department secretary raises per-hour or lump sum. Full-time employees are eligible for longevity pay as well.

Member Greg Miller said in a year that the Town Council raised taxes and implemented the hydrant fee, he can’t support giving elected officials including Jordan a pay raise. Perrine said council members have other full-time employment but Jordan’s job is being clerk.

Weibl asked if the council compared Jordan’s $50,091 annual salary with other area clerks. Miller said he would suspect it’s on par or above but didn’t know.

Jordan has no part-time deputy clerks working in her office.

Final vote to maintain Jordan’s current wage was council members Jeff Freeze, Miller, Weibl and Jim McGee in favor and Perrine opposed. After the meeting he said traditionally Burns Harbor has kept department heads including clerk-treasurer all at the same salary, but now she’s paid less.

Following the vote, from the audience former Town Council member Ray Poparad said Jordan does a good job and the members who voted against a raise are wrong. Resident Shirley Hummel added, “I’m with him.”

2013 salaries also were set for the Park Department, which Park Board member Clark Hamilton said included some raises but not for the board.

Street funds hard to find

Hummel, a 37-year resident, attended the meeting to ask for improvements to Coan Street. “It’s soon to be a dirt road,” she predicted, showing photos, describing its poor condition and stating its width varies from 10 feet to 20 feet in places.

Perrine said most older roads like Coan are deteriorating because the town doesn’t have the funds and finds it difficult to qualify for grants.

Miller suggested convening a workshop next year to prioritize street repairs with Old Porter Road likely high on the list; such large-scale road repairs are tremendously expensive, he told Hummel.

In other business Wednesday:

• McGee, long-time council president, was re-elected for 2013. Freeze will return as vice-president. McGee said he will announce council liaisons to town departments at the Jan. 9 meeting. It was announced residents have until Jan. 4 to submit letters seeking appointment to vacancies on boards and commissions.

• The council voted unanimously under suspension of the rules to abolish having three wards and two at-large seats beginning with the next and all future council elections, at which time all five council members will be elected at-large like the clerk-treasurer.

• Freeze described the town’s ADA transition plan proposing how Burns Harbor will make its public areas, including Lakeland Park, fully accessible to the disabled. The plan, developed by consultant Desila Rosetti and Arney as building commissioner, can be amended as needed. Although there’s no deadline to make the improvements, a total commitment of $5,000 was approved for 2013-2015. The plan will be finalized for submission to regional planners by the Dec. 31 deadline.

• Freeze said improvements have been made both within the steel plant and at the ArcelorMittal east entrance on U.S. 12, where long traffic back-ups have occurred. Discussions are ongoing about additional changes to eliminate previous truck-stacking problems.

• Town marshal Mike Heckman said officer Craig Barnes has resigned from the Police Department, but there are funds to employ part-time police until a replacement is hired.

• As fire chief, Arney said non-perishable food still is being sought in cooperation with the Lions Club for donation to the needy this holiday season; it can be left at the fire station, or pick-up can be arranged. He also said the recent Shop with a Firefighter program was a great success.

• Hamilton said beginning next year the Park Board will meet the first Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. The Harbor Lake fountain has been winterized, and it was agreed plans for a decorative water fountain at Bolinger Park will be discussed next month.

• At Perrine’s suggestion proposals will be sought for town engineering services in 2013. Perrine said additional work will be needed since Burns Harbor now has to comply with federal MS4 stormwater-protection regulations.

• Street Superintendent Randy Skalku asked that neighbors parking vehicles on subdivision streets not park directly across from each other, instead staggering the cars so snowplows can get through.

• On a 5-0 vote the council agreed to commit its CEDIT revenue in 2013 and 2014 for salaries for paramedics and EMTs on the Fire Department’s expanded ambulance service. CEDIT money previously was used for payments on a ladder truck.

• The council voted 5-0 to approve about $63,000 in year-end additional budget appropriations. Hummel questioned the need during a public hearing.

 

Posted 12/13/2012