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gears up

By Andrew Steele

Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT — Supporters of a new Crown Point High School are gearing up this month for what they hope will be the final contest in the battle to approve the school’s construction, while opponents are preparing for the same contest in hopes of delaying the project one year — a delay they hope will become permanent.
   The contest, set to begin Aug. 27, requires the two sides to collect as many property owners’ signatures as they can. Petition forms will be available Aug. 27 at the Lake County Auditor’s office. Completed forms will be due in that office Sept. 27.
   During that month, hundreds of volunteers will fan out across Crown Point, Winfield, Lakes of the Four Seasons, the east half of Cedar Lake, and unincorporated areas in Center and Winfield townships, going door-to-door to collect signatures for their side.
   Activists on each side have formed organizations to coordinate their efforts, with the pro-new-school side forming the group Youth + Education = Success, or YES, and the anti-new-school side forming the group Save Our Schools/Stop Outrageous Spending, or SOS.
   Karen Schrum, who chairs the YES group, said close to 500 people have volunteered to collect signatures.
   “We have been working on coordinating our efforts,” she said. “Our goal is to hit as many homes as possible.”
   The YES campaign hopes the petition drive will follow in line with the last two School Board elections, which have created a pro-build majority, and the 1997 public preference poll, which showed a majority of voters in favor of construction.
   Michel Nikolich, an organizer of the SOS campaign, said he has more than 100 people who have volunteered to collect signatures, and they will also go door-to-door.
   “I think that’s the only way you can do it,” he said. “Going door-to-door is far better than anything else.”
   Nikolich said although a victory by his side in the petition drive would only officially delay the project one year, he hopes that school officials would give up on the new high school if SOS wins. He also said the opponents of a new school will focus on winning next spring’s elections, when board members Jackie Webster and Charles Kleinschmidt’s seats are up for election.
   Both groups have phone numbers people who are interested in volunteering or signing a petition may call. The YES campaign’s number is 663-0941; those interested in the SOS campaign may phone 663-5277.
   The petition process was created by the state legislature to give property owners the final say in local projects that include selling bonds as a method of financing construction.
   After the local governing body, in this case the School Board, approves the project and advertises its intention to borrow money to pay for it, opponents are given 30 days to collect 250 signatures of property owners objecting to the project.
   In Crown Point, this was accomplished July 16.
   The success of the preliminary petition means a petition race must be held between supporters and opponents. A variety of rules govern that petition race.
   Only property owners may sign petitions, and property owners are defined as “persons or corporations who are owners of taxable real estate located in the particular taxing unit which is proposing the project, as shown by the tax records in the Auditor’s office.”
   Auditor’s office officials check all signatures against the property tax rolls, and the names on the petitions must match the names on the tax records.
   Joint owners — for example a husband and wife — may each sign a petition, and will be counted as two property owners as long as they are both listed on the tax bills.
   Also, any person collecting signatures must sign the petition he or she is circulating, and therefore must be a property owner in the school district.
   The signature-collectors must also witness all signatures, and sign a notarized affidavit attesting to the petition’s authenticity.
   The auditor’s office, where the petitions and rules may be picked up, is located at the northeast corner of the Lake County Government Center, 2293 N. Main St., Crown Point.
Wayne Gruber of Hubingers Landscaping and Marilynn Chynoweth, superintendent of the Flower Show, try to pick the best flower from this selection of beauties at the Lake County Fair last week.

A different
beauty contest

By Erin O'Deen

Star Staff Writer

CROWN POINT  —  Things were blooming in the Special Exhibits Building during the 10-day Lake County Fair.
   The building was filled with Lovers Lies Bleeding, Bachelor Buttons and other flowers that were on display for judging.
   Nearly 300 entries were displayed in arrangements, bunches, alone and in clusters. All were judged on freshness, size, color, form, substance, stem and foliage, and balance and proportion.
   According to committee member Sandra French, the judging is mainly based on freshness and size.
   While the judges’ decision is final, all categories are taken into great consideration before an award is given.
   The judge for perennials and annuals, Wayne Gruber of Hubinger Landscaping Center in Crown Point, checked each entry carefully, noting each flower’s special characteristic, then awarded the prizes accordingly.
   “This one has a beautiful color,” he said, admiring a yellow daylily. “It may not be the best specimen, but the color is gorgeous.”
   Another specification for the show was the way in which a flower was displayed. The rules state that the flowers should be arranged in clear glass, 8, 16, or 32-ounce bottles so that it is proportionate to the specimen. The containers ranged from crystal vases to old soda-pop bottles.
   The flower show spanned a period of four days in which anything from flower arrangements, shrubs, and roses were displayed and judged. The shows were also open to anyone who would like to enter.

Council eyes
3 percent raises

By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT — The City Council on Monday passed a Year 2000 salary ordinance that provides most employees the traditional 3 percent raise and restructures the Police Department’s administration.
   Police leadership has in the past included a chief, lieutenant, master sergeant and chief of detectives. Next year’s salary ordinance creates the position of captain, which will be filled by the current lieutenant, Sam Trapane.
   The patrol division and detective bureaus will then be headed by lieutenants.
   The current master sergeant is William Babjak, who will fill the patrol lieutenant position.
   The only regular employee who will receive more than a 3 percent raise next year is Parks Director Betty Wells, who will get 5 percent, Mayor James Metros said.
   “Compared to other parks directors, she’s very underpaid,” he said.
   Wells’ bi-weekly paycheck will be $1,397.62 next year.
   Another issue that had been discussed in relation to the salary ordinance was a plan to pay for the health insurance of employees who retire early.
   Metros said Monday that the money for the insurance fund will not come from payroll deductions but instead from a new fund in the city budget.
   He said $30,000 will be allocated in next year’s budget for the plan, which will pay for health insurance for retired employees from the time they retire until they are eligible for Medicare.
   Paying for health insurance has been one of the obstacles employees, especially police officers, have cited for not retiring early.
   Paying for retirees’ insurance, “encourages a younger workforce,” Metros said.
   “It benefits the employees and it benefits the city,” he said.
   Passing the salary ordinance is the second step in the annual budget process, after passage of the elected officials ordinance.
   Next comes consideration of the entire budget. The council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 30 for a public hearing on the 2000 budget, then at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 for final adoption of the budget.


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