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Taser decision delayed in Burns Harbor; Website upgrade coming

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Burns Harbor Town Council member Gene Weibl voiced lone opposition Wednesday to equipping town police with Tasers.

“This is a weapon that has the ability to be used too carelessly,” he said, adding it would open the town up to new liability so the town’s insurance carrier should be consulted.

The council agreed to do more research, read a proposed Taser policy submitted by town marshal Mike Heckman and be prepared to vote on his request Nov. 13.

It would cost almost $6,000 for five Tasers and related equipment; Heckman said he has the money in his budget and no officer would be required to use a Taser if they did not feel comfortable doing so.

Councilman Mike Perrine, a former Burns Harbor police officer, said years ago he was issued a stun gun but police had to get in close proximity to the out-of-control person they were trying to subdue.

A Taser can be fired from a distance using electrical current to interrupt voluntary muscle control. Perrine said he’d rather police Taser him five times than shoot him five times or beat him to subdue him.

Councilman Jeff Freeze said he spoke to representatives of two communities who authorize Taser use there and they recommended Burns Harbor allow that option if needed. Freeze added the town could be open to lawsuits from officers for not providing them with the necessary tools to protect themselves.

Council president Jim McGee said it’s an officer’s discretion how best to control a situation and he trusts town officers. McGee asked about training and Heckman outlined what would be available.

Councilman Greg Miller said it’s not impossible for a Taser to cause serious bodily injury, but it’s generally considered non-lethal.

Chesterton, Porter and Ogden Dunes authorize Taser use for their respective police departments.

As far as Burns Harbor’s September police activity, Heckman said officers responded to 362 incidents; six vehicles crashes, all property damage; made three felony and nine misdemeanor arrests; issued 50 citations and gave 180 written and verbal warnings.

Town website upgrades

The council authorized soliciting requests for proposals to upgrade and administer the town website, which recently was overtaken by a computer virus.

The council expressed appreciation to volunteers who built the original site years ago, but members agreed it’s time for a redesign and better management. Residents Kurt Jordan and Toni Biancardi were thanked for eliminating the virus.

Miller said a professional website is essential to marketing the town; Freeze said it can be a valuable tool for economic development by making information available to potential developers as well as the public.

Weibl said of the website, “Right now we don’t look professional. We need to look professional. This is money that needs to be spent.”

In other business, the council voted 5-0 to approve a new lease with American Tower that gives Burns Harbor a $50,000 signing bonus for extending the current lease for an additional 30 years in five-year increments. Beginning in 2014 the annual tower rent of just under $12,000 goes up 3 percent each year.

American’s cellular communications tower and equipment building is located behind the town hall.

Town attorney Bob Welsh went over the terms of the lease extension and the council accepted his recommendation to delete a clause that would have increased the leased area if American made improvements beyond those boundaries. Welsh also noted a clause that said the lease is a confidential document did not apply because Burns Harbor is a town.

Fire equipment approved

On Miller’s motion the council unanimously OK’d Fire Department purchase of a $8,500 thermo-imaging camera to replace its 15-year-old defective model. “We need this to do a good job, and for the safety of the firefighters and the public?” asked Miller.

Fire chief Bill Arney replied affirmatively. He said the camera will be used to locate hot spots and their temperature without tearing out walls and floors; the camera also can locate people.

Clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan said she’d determine which town account should be used to fund the purchase.

Also Wednesday, a $51,000 Fire Department transfer was approved, the bulk of it for salaries of part-time paramedic/EMTs to staff town ambulances.

Arney announced this weekend at the intersection of Indiana 149 and U.S. 20 firefighters will solicit donations for the Indiana burn camp, and that the annual Fire Department spaghetti dinner will be Oct. 26 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the fire station. Tickets can be purchased there or from a firefighter; cost is $6 pre-sale, $8 at the door and an additional $1 for carry-out.

In September firefighters responded to 51 calls and spent 26.51 hours at emergency scenes putting 1,130 miles on department equipment.

Also Wednesday:

*  As building commissioner, Arney reported nine new homes are under construction in town in addition to several multi-unit apartment buildings.

*  Trick-or-Treat was set for Oct. 31 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The Police and Fire departments will give out candy and glo-necklaces. Heckman said extra patrols will be on duty.

*  The council heard a presentation from Porter County tourism executive director Lorelei Weimer regarding the multi-county Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission. She said Porter contributes $40,000 a year but is able to access $1.8 million in marketing for its Indiana Dunes and Beyond the Beach attractions by leveraging NITDC partnerships.

*  The council voted 5-0 formally adopting the proposed 2014 budget at $3,603,311 although $683,066 will be cut because those sewer bonds have been paid off.

*  Approved was having Cender & Company do a financial analysis of possibly declaring the Traditions apartment complex a TIF district. The town Redevelopment Commission will discuss the matter Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.

*  Freeze said The Village POA has ordered three posts and Stop signs to finish the four-way stop at Clifford and Chesterfield, and asked that the Street Department install them.

*  McGee said from now on a final agenda will be released on Monday preceding the Wednesday council meetings rather than a draft agenda on the previous Friday.

 

Posted 10/10/2013