The Porter Town
Council voted down a $4,300 request to help determine whether historic South
Shore passenger cars could be used for an operating tourism trolley or as
part of a museum display, perhaps in Porter itself.
vote, project promoter Richard Riley of the South Shore Line Heritage
Foundation commented, "We’ll raise the money somehow.”
Porter’s $4,300 was
the last money needed for a planned $19,500 feasibility study for the
Greg Stinson and Elka Nelson each said they will make a personal donation
with their own money, but not the town’s.
They and councilman
Rob Pomeroy voted no on member David Wodrich’s motion to approve donating
$4,300 from the town’s CEDIT fund. Wodrich and member Jeannine Virtue voted
Virtue asked why
the council doesn’t even question its annual $3,000 donation to the
Fireworks on the Lakefront event when the train study could have more
potential for longer-lasting benefits.
Nelson said the
fireworks donation may need to be reconsidered in light of increasingly
tight town finances. She noted Porter could reconsider its trolley/museum
participation, like helping acquire easements, when and if plans are farther
Pomeroy said the
fireworks are entertainment for town residents, and at this point a
feasibility study would be just a piece of paper. “There are no guarantees
with this thing.” If the project is so worthwhile, he challenged promoters
to pursue fundraising like the Porter Park Department has had to do.
Wodrich said the
study might build on tourism for the future. “It’s worth taking the risk to
generate more money for the whole of Duneland.”
Nelson said she’s
very much in favor of the project but Porter’s finances don’t permit a
donation, especially when department heads are being told to cut their
budgets and the town has infrastructure needs.
The Porter County
Board of Commissioners and the Town of Chesterton both have committed $4,300
to help fund the $19,500 study and Indiana Dunes Tourism has pledged $6,500.
Pomeroy said if the
2010 census populations of Porter and Chesterton are compared to that of
Porter County without the two towns, Porter households are being asked to
pay $2.38 each while Chesterton’s are $0.86 each and Porter County’s $0.06.
Riley and Indiana
Dunes Tourism executive director Lorelei Weimer requested a $4,300 Porter
donation at the council’s July 8 meeting but asked that a decision be
postponed until classic train collector Bob Harris, a former Porter
resident, could be present last night to answer questions about the
inventory of passenger cars, track and parts he would donate for the
photos of his rail cars including a 1908 wooden South Shore car now being
restored and a steel passenger car like those currently being operated in
East Troy, WI.
Harris asked why
East Troy, a town of 4,300 people, can operate an electric railroad using
vintage South Shore cars when Duneland --- where the electric
Chicago-to-South Bend interurban began and still runs --- can’t.
The 10-mile scenic
East Troy trip, which includes dining cars and private rentals, travels
through southeastern Wisconsin and is 20 minutes from Lake Geneva.
Riley referred to
letters of support he had provided the Porter council showing agencies and
groups that back the study. Nelson said Porter has indicated its support by
letter before and would do so again short of a monetary donation.
Riley referred to
the feasibility study as a hurdle to overcome that will open doors to secure
future funding. “I know ($4,300) is a lot when you look at your budget
problems but I ask you to find a way.”
He also said those
involved understand challenges are ahead to accomplishing their goal, but
they’re willing to explore the options.