The Burns Harbor Town Council opened Wednesday’s meeting, then member Jeff
Freeze immediately moved to accept the disbanded Westport Community Club’s
donation of a clubhouse and 4.7 acres of land at the northeast corner of
Indiana 149 and Haglund Road.
Town attorney Bob Welsh explained the club would deed the property to the
town, the town would pay all transaction costs, and the land is to be used
for park and community purposes but if circumstances dictate that it be sold
in the future, 50% of the proceeds would go to the Burns Harbor Park Board.
When a resident from the audience tried to comment, president Jim McGee
called for the vote; it was 5-0 to accept. He and member Mike Perrine both
prefaced their votes by declaring for the record that each has an
affiliation with the community club.
Members later said what to do with the property and who will administer it
hasn’t been decided. As for now, “The council is in complete control,” said
McGee, who pledged to keep the public informed.
Chesterton Pop Warner football has proposed Westport become the group’s
permanent home under a long-term lease with offers of donations and labor to
help upgrade the dated clubhouse and grounds.
Spokesman Tom Troy, accompanied by Pop Warner parents and children in the
audience, was encouraged by the vote. “Things are moving slowly, but they’re
moving in the right direction.” He noted commitments are already coming in
and Pop Warner plans a silent auction next month to raise funds for
equipment and possible Westport renovation.
The council was in receipt Wednesday of three letters from residents
regarding Westport: one favored the land acquisition and youth activities,
one opposed football and new parking lots, and a third supported the
takeover but not football.
After the meeting Freeze said, “I’m a strong advocate for a youth sports
league here to add a new element to our community.”
He also said there was no final copy of the takeover agreement read by
Welsh, but the council’s concerns were covered in the draft so as long as
the title clears, the property transfer is a done deal.
Freeze acknowledged sentimentality likely played a part in the council’s
decision to accept Westport. It was founded in 1959 as the hub of community
activity before the town’s incorporation. That was another era, said Freeze;
society’s changed and so has today’s use of the Westport property.
He said costs involved with the takeover aren’t yet known, but the residents
are better off having the town acquire the site rather than having it sold
to someone else.
Troy’s group and several others were present for what was intended to be a
special council meeting at 6 p.m. to discuss acquiring Westport. An 8:15
p.m. special meeting also was scheduled yesterday with the Park Board to
discuss Westport uses.
Neither took place as the required legal notice was prepared but
inadvertently not sent or posted. McGee and clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan
apologized for the inconvenience.
Last month the council set a joint June 19 meeting with the Park Board to
discuss Westport, but that wasn’t mentioned Wednesday. McGee asked for
Westport comments from the audience at the meeting’s conclusion, but the
only one dealt with who would administer the site. Westport’s original
request was that it be administered by the Park Board.
Today, Park Board member Jennifer Barnes said her board has several
questions and concerns and thought they’d get to discuss them with the
council but hasn’t. In the absence of any information, she’s not sure what
the Park Board’s next move is. As for Pop Warner, “I don’t think our town is
ready for welcoming such a large amount of people into this (Haglund Road)
In other business Wednesday, approved on a 5-0 vote was a five-year tax
abatement on $155,000 in new personal property to be installed by Indiana
Flame Services at ArcelorMittal Steel. During a public hearing, no one
commented. IFS local attorney Greg Babcock said the lost property taxes to
taxing units will be minimal.
*Councilman Gene Weibl thanked building commissioner Bill Arney for
enforcing fencing requirements for pools to protect the town’s children.
* Arney said building permits are on the rise, and 13 violations for tall
grass were written. As fire chief, he reported 34 fire runs and 28 EMS calls
during May, and that children can sign up now for the July 25 and 26 fire
* Town marshal Mike Heckman said last month his department responded 397
incidents; five vehicle crashes (three property damage, two personal
injury); 11 arrests; 77 tickets issued and 119 written and verbal citations
* Street superintendent Randy Skalku asked residents not to mix construction
debris with brush pick-up as it can’t go through the brush chipper.
* Park Board members said the Lakeland Park beach is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
daily, and the first children’s day camp/art camp starts Monday.