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The STAR is distributed every Thursday.  
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Union fears kill latest contract settlement

By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT - A weeks worth of public relations work by the two sides in the teachers' contract dispute culminated last Thursday with the union saying it did not accept an administration settlement offer because it feared the proposal would lead to staffing, benefits and programming cuts.
     The administration had made public a proposal at the Feb. 26 School Board meeting that it claimed could lead to a 17 percent increase in a beginning school teacher's salary over the course of two years. Teachers higher on the scale would see lower increases in compensation.
     The plan, presented by Assistant to the Superintendent Thomas Dabertin, included a bonus system based on the school corporation's cash balance, which has been depleted in recent years. The proposal also included a shift to a self-funded health insurance program.
     The union, called the Crown Point Education Association, "fears that this proposal will be funded by extensive cost cutting measures," according to a March 2 statement released by lead negotiator Michael David, a high school science teacher.
    Dabertin said the negotiating teams are scheduled to meet again Tuesday.
     "We continue to work," he said. "Our proposal is still on the table, and we've also been asked (by the union) to consider some counter-proposals."
     He said the two sides "are still asking questions on each other's proposals."
     The contract issue was originally taken to the public arena Feb. 24 when the teachers released a statement claiming the school corporation was not offering them pay increases comparable to other teachers in the state, and expressing fear that budget problems would be addressed by the elimination of staff.
     Dabertin's Feb. 26 presentation, given after teachers picketed outside the School Board meeting, was the administration and board's response to the teachers public relations efforts.
     The last Crown Point teachers' contract expired in August.

Park funds approved

Winfield to begin buying equipment 

By Sean McNab
Star Staff 

WriterWinfield - The Town Council released the funding to the Parks Committee to go ahead with the buying of the Playmart equipment for Meadows Park.
   The equipment itself will cost approximately $16,465 and with installation/surfacing it will bring the total to $19,060. Presently, the town has released funding for $18,420.45 of it.
    The two major concerns brought up at the meeting were type of surfacing used for possible falls from the equipment and whether or not it will be handicap accessible.
    "One of best surfaces for newly built parks is that of wood carpet fibers. It has been used in the Elkhart and South Bend Community Parks. It is cost effective at only about $1500 for 130 cubic yards of the fabric and has minimal maintenance," stated Tim Ellis, the Sales Representative from Rees Recreation Products.
    Tony Clark, a representative of Children's Therapy Plus (CTP) located in Crown Point, suggested a different alternative of using ground rubber for the surfacing of the equipment.
    "This proposed wood fiber will mat down and produce mold and/or dampness underneath. I have used ground rubber for over 3 years at CTP with no problems including and have not had to replace it during that time."
    Ellis explained that with almost any type of surfacing there will be some type of replacement cost with the wear and tear from the children using it.
    "Also, the cost of using the ground rubber is extremely high. For the use of 10 inches of it, that will run approximately $10,000."
    Subsequently, the Park Committee members decided on buying the wood fiber that will be 12 inches deep.
    The other issue was the possibility of equipping the park with handicap accessible ramps.
    "Because we have one handicapped child in our town we need to accommodate the needs of her disabilities," commented Barbara Bosnak, the Parks Committee Chairperson.Clark added that if it was handicap accessible his children from CTP would frequent the park often.
    "We do not have the funding right now to build a ramp for handicap accessibility because of the fact that it would increase our total price by $3000 to $6000. We plan on keeping our fund open for 2 more years following the installation. Maybe before it is all said and done we can accommodate such things as ADA ramps," explained Park member Sue Poston.
    Ellis mentioned that the park would still meet ADA regulations because handicap accessibility only needs to be looked at if a park contains 20 or more pieces of equipment, of which Meadows Park will not.
    The park will be open sometime in early June with Reverend Steve Burchett from the Northwest Community Church at Crown Point High School supervising the park blessing.  Included will be Sister Bernadette from St. Anthony's Medical Center and other church groups from around the area. Food will be served from nearby McDonald's and Dairy Queen with a hopeful band booked for the festivity.



Council reconnects AT&T tower plan 

Phone company will have to return to BZA for certain proposal issues

By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT - The City Council on Monday granted a special-use variance to AT&T Wireless to build a communications tower at the NIPSCO substation on Summit Street just west of Main Street.
    Despite an unfavorable recommendation from the Board of Zoning Appeals, the variance was granted on the grounds that the city has no legal basis to reject it.
    "There has to be some substantial reason to deny," Mayor James Metros said. "We would expose ourselves (to a lawsuit) to turn it down."
    But the BZA also rejected AT&T's request for height and setback variances, and the City Council has no authority to overturn those. Representatives of AT&T said they would re-petition the BZA, hoping that the council's approval of the project would reverse the 3-2 zoning board vote against the other variances.
    Some residents of the neighboring Liberty Park subdivision think substantial reasons do exist to turn the project down.
    Clayton Weger said the tower would be a "250-foot hazardous eyesore."
    "Half of Crown Point is going to be looking at this thing," he said.
    Jenny Shreve said she feared area children would cut through fences to climb the tower.
    "If they want to climb that tower they will," she argued.
    The AT&T representatives said the tower would include standard security features for similar towers, and City Engineer Jeff Ban said the tower would be just as difficult to climb as the city's water tower.
   Tom Claussen suggested the company put its antenna on top of the old water tower on county property at 93rd Ave. and Main St., but that site is not within the area that gives AT&T the coverage it wants, company representatives said.
    The council approved the special-use variance unanimously, but in order to build its desired 250-foot high tower, AT&T must get a height variance and a setback variance from the BZA.
    City code only allows towers 200 feet high. The extra 50 feet is to fill the AT&T communications grid.
    Board of Zoning Appeals Chairman Dan Rohaley told the council that the BZA rejected the proposal because "we just didn't have enough information there to make a reasonable determination.
    "We cannot understand why we are locked into a grid that they mandate," he said.

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