Westport Community Club members recently voted to turn over their building
and adjoining acreage to the Town of Burns Harbor for park use, but there
could be a catch.
“It could be a situation in which the property could not be given to the
town free of any encumbrances,” said Town Council member Mike Perrine, who’s
been active in the club.
Meeting Wednesday, the council set April 16 at 7:30 p.m. as a public meeting
with Westport directors to discuss terms of the possible transfer. Town
attorney Bob Welsh will research related issues in the interim.
Perrine explained the club is appealing the loss of its previous tax
exemption from Porter County and is facing an estimated $20,000 tax bill
this year. An appeal hearing is scheduled, but Westport can’t afford to
reorganize from a non-profit 501(c)(4) social welfare civic league to a
charitable organization to retain the exemption, according to Perrine.
He noted the club made only $3,600 in revenue from building rentals in 2012
and for the past few years has been relying on private donations to pay
insurance, utilities and upkeep.
In addition, the building is outdated, not handicapped accessible and needs
renovation, Perrine said prior to the meeting. The community club was
incorporated as the hub of Burns Harbor civic activity in 1954 pre-dating
the town’s 1967 incorporation.
Perrine said for the community club, the writing is on the wall: if the town
doesn’t accept the building and grounds, it will sit there until it goes on
the auction block.
Councilman Greg Miller expressed concern that if the town does assume
ownership, could Porter County back-assess the property creating even more
tax liability for Burns Harbor?
Welsh said he needs to talk to county officials to see if Westport’s current
tax bill is accurate, and whether it could be eliminated or forgiven. Spring
tax bills are due May 10. Titlework also would need to be researched prior
to any transfer.
Gun range to reopen
Both residents and council members commended town marshal Mike Heckman for
brokering a compromise that soon will allow Burns Harbor officers to use the
department’s gun range again.
One year ago the range, located west of the Street Department complex on
Navajo Trail, was closed after complaints, especially from nearby Indian
Springs residents. At that time several police departments and agencies
trained at the range on various weapons.
Now, said Heckman, five Burns Harbor officers each will qualify twice a year
sometime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Residents who request it will be
notified when shooting will occur, and a manned police car will stand by at
the fishermans’ parking lot northwest of the range.
Heckman is working with town Street Department superintendent Randy Skalku
to bring the range into full compliance, and a certified rangemaster trainer
will be on site when qualification on pistol, rifle and shotgun takes place.
Linda McGinnis asked that shooting not occur the first two weeks in May when
migrating birds are returning. Heckman agreed, saying he saw Sandhill cranes
recently in town.
Chuck Tuter said he appreciated being contacted, and Heckman’s plan sounds
like it will work well. Jesse Day said his concern is the safety of children
in the area; Perrine said all precautions will be taken and shooting
restricted to inside the berm.
Neighbor Thomas Pizzolato said he has no problem as long as town police use
the range. “If they don’t qualify, they can’t do their job.” With robberies,
thefts and convenience-store holdups, he added, “We need our police officers
ready to go.”
Councilman Gene Weibl said range use got out of hand before, but the current
council won’t let that happen again.
IFS abatement continued
Welsh reported an anticipated presentation last night by representatives of
Indiana Flame Services seeking tax abatement was delayed at the company’s
request. A preliminary presentation took place March 13.
The ArcelorMittal contractor plans to upgrade and expand its
slab-conditioning equipment there and move its Research and Development
operations to Burns Harbor from France.
Also Wednesday, at Perrine’s suggestion the council established a policy
directing clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan automatically to send a floral
arrangement of up to $100 from the town when a current or former official,
an employee or a member of either’s family passes away.
Weibl and Freeze apologized to the family of recently deceased Warren Boo, a
former town official and community leader. Weibl, clearly moved by his
recollections of Boo, said it was truly an oversight. “He was a good man, a
Tuter said Boo was one of the most memorable officials the town has had, and
Ray Poparad said of Boo, “He was a town father.”
Boo’s wife Betty, who survives, was the town’s clerk-treasurer for many
The Boo family donated land where the Westport Community Club is located and
Weibl said if the town acquires it, appropriate action to remember Boo could