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Feature Stories for Thursday, May 17, 2001

The STAR is distributed every Thursday.  
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Council balks at chief's request

By Kathie Godfrey
Star Correspondent

LOWELL - Lowell Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jack Eskridge said Monday the Fire Department needs trench rescue equipment to protect the lives of the town's street, water, and sewer employees on the job.
    Eskridge says the equipment is needed to augment the town's confined space rescue equipment and will provide a needed level of service and protection in the event of a catastrophe involving structural trench or building cave-ins.
    To a price tag of $11,871 for the basic equipment, Eskridge wants to add another $1,339 for large Danish braces used to hold up collapsed walls. He also said he'll need $3,000 for certification training for firefighters and sewer, water, and street superintendents in the use of the new equipment.
    In addition, Eskridge would add $430 worth of lumber at cost from a local retailer and a trailer with electrical generator hook-up to haul the equipment around at a cost of $6,300.
    But Eskridge said he doesn't want to use $10,000 from the fire equipment budget to help pay for the new equipment. Although he admitted the township area served by the Fire Department will pay nothing towards the new equipment, Eskridge asked the town alone to pay $22,940 for the new equipment and training out of its general fund Monday night.
    Some council members balked at the request.
    "Has proper training been given to our employees to prevent the need for this equipment?" asked Councilman Larry Just, R-4th.   "Have they been trained in proper shoring techniques and the proper use of our shoring equipment?"
    Town Council President Bob Hatch, R-3rd, agreed.
    "I can't see spending money for rescue equipment when we should be preventing the need for such rescues with proper training. I have a problem with that."
    But Street Superintendent Dan Myers said during a recent digging operation his department had been unable to use shoring equipment.
    Eskridge added that there have been trench deaths in Lowell during his term as fire chief.
    "With all the money we spend on water and sewer in this town, I don't think this is a lot to ask for," Eskridge said.
    "But the money for water and sewer doesn't come out of the general budget," Just responded.
    "You always use that excuse," Eskridge returned.
Clerk-Treasurer Judy Walters said she would research the matter of funding the project with cumulative sewer and water funds for the council's May 29 meeting.
    In other business the council welcomed David Gard as its newest member and appointed Gard to the Plan Commission. Gard, a Democrat, will complete the term of Joseph Mika, who served on the council for one year as fifth ward councilman, a position formerly held for two terms by the late Bill Dunn.
    The father of three grown sons, Gard has lived in Lowell for 23 years with his wife Debbie and works as a certified restorer, estimator and project manager for United Services in Griffith and as a partner in D&B Windows of Lowell.
    He says the primary issue facing the town is "water, water and water," in reference to the quantity, quality and cost of Lowell's troubled drinking water.
    "I'm not a politician," Gard said. "I've made an investment in the town and feel we should run the business of the town like a business."
    In another matter, the council approved the original contract offer from Sprint on the advice of Town Attorney John Kopack, who reported that his request for annual percentage increases in excess of 3 percent had been refused.
    Sprint, however, agreed to pay the first year's $21,600 rental in one lump sum for the placement of their antenna atop the town's Liberty Park water tower.


Study will assess school

By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT - The school corporation will spend up to $14,750 to find out what rehabilitation projects are possible at the current high school.
    Skillman Corp., the construction manager for the new high school, will inspect the high school building and develop cost estimates on transforming it into a kindergarten through eighth-grade school and into a seventh- and eight-grade middle school.
    The School Board approved the feasibility study on Monday, two weeks after board members concluded that they weren't ready to decide how the downtown school building would be used once the new high school is completed.
    Superintendent H. Steve Sprunger said the feasibility study will give school officials information they would have needed no matter what project they undertake.
    Whether the building becomes an 800-student K-8 school or an 1,100-student middle school, "we need a fairly firm understanding of what the cost is going to be on renovation of the downtown high school site," he said.
    The administration has recommended the old high school be used as a middle school, with Taft Middle School becoming a fifth- and sixth-grade school.
    But strong opposition from School Board member Michael McCormick resulted in the April 30 work session at which board members discussed a variety of options, ranging from using the school as a K-8 open enrollment school to abandoning it altogether.
    Skillman's study will also include an investigation of the cost and benefits of tearing down a portion of the high school. Sprunger has said older portions of the building would need major work to remain usable, and has expressed concern that the money officials have for facility projects may not cover the cost.
    In a related matter, Sprunger said the administration has been meeting with area planning directors to develop a projection of student-age population growth in the Crown Point school community. He said the study should be finished within four weeks.


Forest View revision OK'd

By Sean McNab
Star Staff Writer

CROWN POINT - After having its initial proposal for the Forest View Farms subdivision denied by the City Council on April 2, Hawk Development took the simplest and most conservative route to approval Monday when it presented a new plan to the Plan Commission.
    Hawk's plan for a senior citizen community of townhomes and carriage houses - which the Plan Commission recommended the City Council approve - has now become a plan for 220 single-family homes on the 100-acre parcel.
    "We listened to the issues that the nearby residents had with our single and multi-family plan," Hawk attorney Tony Brasco told the commission. "We have tried to address those problems by changing the petition to a 220 lot single-family residential subdivision."
    Residents of the neighboring Northwood subdivision had complained that Forest View would dramatically increase traffic and adversely affect stormwater drainage.
    "We have tried to deal with the traffic situation by proposing a straight subdivision," Brasco said.     "We have made the smallest lot on the property no less than 10,000 square feet. We will also be creating two (stormwater) detention areas with the hopes of slowing down the water into the current waterways. We know that this does not eliminate the drainage issues but it at least helps the current situation."
    Plan Commission President Patt Patterson noted that a representative of Northwood subdivision, Robert Stiglich, sent a letter of remonstrance to the commission pressing that the petition not be passed.
    "All of the concerns that Mr. Stiglich had with this petition were went through by Mr. Hawk and I and they have all been met," said City Engineer Jeff Ban.
    Disappointed by Hawk's new plan, Mayor James Metros commented, "Following the history of (Hawk's) White Hawk development, I am really disappointed in the changed plat. This is the epitome of a cookie-cutter subdivision with price values ranging from $120,000 to $140,000.
    "I feared this was the way it would end up," Metros continued. "The council wanted a less dense concept (than Hawk's original plan) but this type of subdivision will only lower the surrounding homeowners property values. This type of subdivision does not do Crown Point any good."
    City Councilman Robert Corbin, R-5th, who is also a Plan Commission member, said the council did not intend its April 2 rejection to lead to a development like Hawk is now proposing. He said move to void the April 2 denial at the June 4 meeting.
    Plan Commission Attorney Peter Manous said he would look into the legality of reversing the April 2 decision.
Despite their preference for the original plan, a majority of commissioners felt obligated to approve Hawk's new plan. Only Patterson voting against it.



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