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Feature Stories for Thursday, August 16, 2001

The STAR is distributed every Thursday.  
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Liberty Park residents oppose bike trail

By Sean McNab
Star Staff Writer

CROWN POINT - The proposed bike trail was submitted to the Plan Commission Monday night for public hearing.
     Mitch Barloga, the Special Projects Administrator for the city, summarized input he received from residents at an open house about the possible adoption of extended bike trail within the city.
     "An estimated 75 residents showed up on July 31 with 29 responding to the comment forms," Barloga said.   "Twenty-four of those comments stated that they were satisfied with the plan."
     The proposed trails will follow along highways like I-65 and U.S. 231 as well as include connecting loops throughout the city.
     There is even speculation that when it is finished the trail will connect with parts of Chicago.
     A number of Liberty Park subdivision residents who could be affected by this bike trail remonstrated during the public hearing.
     "This bike trail could be put right in my back yard," said Jenny Shreve of 211 Maple St. "For all I know a person using this trail could have just escaped from the Lake County Jail because it is less than a mile away."
     Along the same lines, Linda Suns said she has seen vandalism on her property and is concerned that future modifications may increase this if this trail goes through her property. She also said the property has been affected by other projects benefitting the city.
     "My father has owned this property all of his life and the city and state have already taken part of the land for the betterment of the city. We do not want people all over our property causing problems and possibly getting hurt," said Suns.
     The Indiana Department of Transportation has recently approved funding of $700,000 for the bike trail with the city matching another $200,000.
     Chris Fetcko, another resident of Maple Street, commented, "The reason I bought my home is because it afforded me privacy and peace and quiet. I really thought that nothing would ever come of anything behind me because of the NIPSCO substation seated there. I do not want an alley behind my house, because if I did, I could gave easily gone to another city or town to get that."
     Barloga responded to the comments by taking research and statistics from the magazine "Rails and Trails" from 1995 that claimed that on over 7,000 miles of biking trail with more than 45 million users annually, only 11 serious crimes were committed.
     Residents comments, however, led the Plan Commission to deferred the matter until a future date.
Meanwhile, the mayor's office has scheduled a public forum for Liberty Park residents and other concerned citizens for 7 p.m. Aug. 21 at the American Legion Post 20 hall, 1401 N. Main St.
     The event will include an overview of the city's plans, presentations on other communities' experiences with bike trails, and information on benefits of bicycling.
     Representatives of the city, the Crown Point Trails Committee, and other organizations will be on hand to answer residents questions.

END

Fair ends on high note

By Sean McNab
Star Staff Writer

CROWN POINT - The accomplishments of the county's 4-H members were recognized Friday during 4-H Achievement Night at the Lake County Fair.
     The event included a Parade of Champions recognizing the clubs throughout the county that participated over the past year, and the crowning of the 4-H Achievement King and Queen.
     Most of the 30 4-H clubs participated in activities ranging from genealogy to child development to rocketry, though a few groups had a focus on activity, including the "Just Horsin' Around" club.
     In only its first year of operation, the club's six members have won numerous horse and pony awards throughout the county.
     "Two of our members this year were Highpoint Champions in their respected divisions while we had one member who was Highpoint Reserve Champion," said Alicia Molnar, the administrative leader of the group.
     The Highpoint Awards are considered under four criteria: how well the person rides the horse or pony; the showmanship exhibited by the child; the quality of an educational project by the child; and a public demonstration in front of one's peers.
     "This interaction through speeches with peers and the responsibility each child has as an active participant in the club will help these children later on in life," said Molnar.
     Molnar was proud of the club members because of a change the group made from almost 70 members last year to this year's fresh start that allowed more flexibility in scheduling.
     "There were just too many members in the group last year and it limited the things we were able to do. With six members in this group we can do a lot more."
     Tommy Stanley, one of two members in the club who earned the Highpoint Champion award and who will be an eighth-grader at Hanover Central Junior High School this year, explained that 4-H has really exposed him to different avenues that not everyone has the chance to come in contact with.
     "There are so many different things you learn while you are in 4-H club. This year I was involved in the drill team and color guard along with entering what is called 'Gymkhana,' which focuses on barrels, poles and speed and action."
     Concluding Friday's ceremony was the 4-H King and Queen crowning. Eric Duttlinger of Hebron and Crystal Wilcox of Griffith took the honors.
     Wilcox has been a 10-year member of the Griffith Grinners 4-H Club and has been involved in over 40 project categories. She has won the Schneider Leadership Award, the State Key Award, Grange Award and County Key Award. She has received scholarships in 4-H Plant Science and Indiana 4-H Foundation. She has been on the Honor Courts in 1999 and 2000.
     Duttlinger completed his eighth year as a member of the Shelby Ag 4-H Club completing 15 projects while holding offices of President and Treasurer in the Junior Leaders. He also won the Schneider Leadership Award and received scholarships from the Indiana 4-H Foundation along the 4-H Swine Accomplishment Scholarship.
     Both winners will receive a U.S. Savings Bond from the Lake County 4-H Club Committee and were given special recognition by the Lake County Fair Board President, Kenneth Craft.

END

School budget presented

By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT -  Administrators presented a 2002 budget detailing nearly $44 million in spending to the School Board Monday, opening a budget approval process that will last until a state hearing in October.
     "We do have some challenges ahead of us," said Superintendent H. Steve Sprunger, "but I also think we're more than up to those challenges."
     Business Director Kim Fox said changes in state funding, increased utility costs, and long-term severance liability, among other things, have made the budget tight.
     The school corporation gets more than half its money from the state.
     The rest is funded through local property taxes. If the budget under consideration is enacted, the school portion of property owners' taxes will increase about 4.7 percent.
      he 2001 tax bills, though, will contain drastically different assessed valuations and tax rates, school corporation Business Director Kim Fox noted.
     The state, she said, is shifting to what it calls a 'true tax value' system that in effect will assessed valuations and simultaneously reduce tax rates by two-thirds.
     Because the tax rate is reduced in an amount proportional to the increase in assessed valuation, the actual amount of taxes paid will be consistent from year to year.
     Officially, the 2001 (payable 2002) school tax rate was $7.3128 per $100 assessed valuation, and the 2002 (payable 2003) rate is expected to be $2.5521.
     But Fox provided the board tables allowing them to compare "apples to apples" concerning the tax rate.
     Using the old system, the tax rate goes from $7.3128 in 2001 to $7.6564 in 2002.
     Using the new system, the tax rate would rise from $2.4376 in 2001 to $2.5521 in 2002.
     The bulk of school property taxes go to two funds in the budget: the General Fund, which pays salaries and other basic operational costs; and the Debt Service Fund, which makes payments on corporation debt.
     Using the new method, the General Fund portion of the tax rate will go from $0.9655 to $0.9808. The Debt Service Fund portion of the tax rate will go from $0.8497 to $0.9178, an increase of about 8 percent.
     That increase is due in large part to a nearly $1.4 million increase in the payment on the new high school, under construction at Main Street and Burrell Drive. Next year's payment will total $3.85 million.
     That payment will rise incrementally until it reaches a peak of $8.23 million in 2019 through 2024. The escalating payment structure was employed in the hope that development in the community will substantially increase the collective value of property, thereby lowering the tax rate for individual property owners.
     The board is scheduled to approve the budget at its Sept. 10 meeting. A public hearing will be held Aug. 27.

END

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(219) 663-4212

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