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Feature Stories for Thursday, April 12, 2001

The STAR is distributed every Thursday.  
The Crown Point Network offers a sneak preview of weekly cover stories.

Planners approve wine bar

By Sean McNab
Star Staff Writer

CROWN POINT - After two unsuccessful attempts to sway city officials to approve a plan for a restaurant, John Desmaretz finally got his wish Monday as the Plan Commission voted 5-1 to allow him to proceed with the opening of Naughty Grapes at 513 N. Main St.
     The commission had previously told Desmaretz to have a lease agreement for proposed valet parking, state approval for a curb cut entering the premises, and a liquor license.
     With insufficient parking for the restaurant, Desmaretz has proposed using valet parking.
"I got a verbal agreement from Tom Collins of Luke Oil a few days ago stating that I would be able to lease his property for five years to park my customers if needed," explained Desmaretz.
The only problem with the lease is that it gives Luke Oil the option to cancel it with 60 days notice.
     Ed Grimmer, an attorney whose office is at 603 Main St., commented, "It is great that Mr. Desmaretz has a verbal agreement with Luke Oil but I can guarantee that Mr. Collins eventually wants to sell his property instead of leasing it. That is why he has a 60 day notification clause if any potential buyers surface."
     Mayor James Metros supported Desmaretz's off-street parking concept by comparing it to what city residents have to deal with regularly at the downtown square.
     "We have had off-square parking used downtown in our city for years," he said.       "Twelve Islands restaurant does not have adequate parking for all of its customers. All of the stores on the square depend on off-site parking and the use of parking lots."
     Desmaretz further explained that he has preliminary acceptance for a curb cut entering the restaurant parking lot. Members of the commission warned Desmaretz that final approval from the Indiana Department of Transportation was necessary before he could proceed.
     Desmaretz also submitted documentation of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission's approval for a liquor license.
     Desmaretz will face the city Board of Zoning Appeals on April 23 for the approval of off-site parking.


More time needed on grade vote

By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT -  A divided School Board decided Monday to put off a decision on the grade configuration of its schools until it has held work sessions on the matter.
     A motion to implement the administration's recommendation on the matter - that the six elementary schools include kindergarten through fourth-grade, that Taft hold fifth- and sixth-grades, and that the current high school become a seventh- and eighth-grade middle school - was made by Thomas Hoffman and seconded by Daniel Root, but after lengthy discussion Michael McCormick moved to table the matter, and received the support of Bart Aiello and Root.
     Byron Hubbard joined Hoffman in opposing tabling the matter.
     Opposition to the administration's plan has centered around the ideas that having students attend four schools means too many transitions; that grouping all fifth- and sixth-graders in one building limits the possibilities for participation on Spell Bowl, Math Bowl, and similar teams; and that the K-6 elementaries allow for role model and mentoring opportunities between older and younger children.
     Winfield parent Bridget Harrison said the administration's recommendation is opposed by most parents, and "the unpopularity of this configuration is in and of itself reason to study other configurations."
     McCormick said there had not been sufficient consideration of alternatives, and that the administration and board president Hubbard were forcing the matter.
      He read from a letter to Hubbard requesting a delay in the matter and the scheduling of several work sessions. Hubbard responded, McCormick said, with a letter saying the administration deserved a decision on their recommendation.
     McCormick said he has accepted Superintendent H. Steve Sprunger's conclusion that the original plan for two 6-8 middle school is unfeasible because Taft cannot be transformed into such a school.
     But McCormick offered another alternative, based on his conception of the school corporation as a "company" serving "customers" and having the responsibility of offering "choice."
     School officials should consider turning the current high school into a kindergarten through eighth-grade school, and giving parents throughout the school district the option to send their children to it.
     The existing elementary schools and Taft would keep their current grades.
     It's not the School Board's job to "engage in social engineering" by saying "all fifth-graders should be in one building," McCormick said.
     "I firmly believe in providing customer choice," he concluded.
McCormick asked Sprunger if he supported this idea.
     Sprunger said he is open to it in general, but "I don't know that choice is necessarily workable in this situation."
     Root, a member of the task force that originally concluded the K-4, 5-6, 7-8 configuration was best, said the configuration would lead to smaller class sizes, offer more extra-curricular activities for fifth- and sixth-graders, and prepare the school corporation for future growth.
     The configuration is not common, but is working where it has been tried, he said.
     Hoffman agreed, arguing that financially the administration's recommendation was best.
Aiello asked whether time constraints made an immediate vote necessary.
     "Is tonight a critical deadline?" said Sprunger. "Absolutely not."
     The board could delay as late as next fall, he added.



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