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Feature Stories for February 15, 2001

The STAR is distributed every Thursday.  
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Parade law gets approval

By Kathie Godfrey 
Star Correspondent

LOWELL - The Town Council unanimously approved a much-amended parade ordinance Monday - one that promises to protect parade sponsors from thousands of dollars in insurance and security costs threatened by a similar ordinance proposed one year ago. 
    The council moved quickly to ratify the measure following a spate of questions from Joan Bukovac, wife of Lowell Labor Day Organization Chairman Charles "Butch" Bukovac, who sought to clarify the details of the new ordinance as they applied to the 82-year-old Lowell Labor Day Parade, the oldest continuously-running parade in Indiana. 
    Town Attorney John Kopack said the amended ordinance has removed the requirement that parade sponsors carry $5 million worth of liability insurance as the hotly-contest ordinance originally proposed. 
    In its place the town agreed to employ a 'hold harmless waiver" which will protect the town from parade sponsors who might bring the town into a lawsuit in the event of a catastrophe. 
    Council members said they understood, however, that neither a waiver, nor any other legal device, will protect the town from all legal liability during parades. 
    On the issue of police overtime, Town Council President Robert Hatch, R-3rd, said the town would continue its "tradition" of absorbing security costs for parades and events in town. 
    "Funding was not the primary reason for the ordinance," Hatch asserted. "It was a control and enforcement issue.' 
    But other council members and parade sponsors were puzzled as to why the agreed-upon ordinance, which had been bandied about in committee and in council chambers for 12 months, was such a long time coming. 
    "If we didn't need the insurance that they said we needed last year, why couldn't we have done this months ago?" Councilwoman Karen Brooker, R-2nd, asked her fellow council members. 
    Mona Kuechenberg, business owner and member of the Lowell Downtown Merchants Association, which sponsors the Christmas Parade of Lights and other events, told the council she was "elated" that the parade ordinance had been passed but asked why it had taken 10 months to dispose of the insurance issue. 
    Councilman Joe Mika, D-5th, who had urged the council to compromise on the parade ordinance issue in recent months, was not ready to make an issue of past struggles. 
    "It's done," Mika told Kuechenberg. "That's all that matters." 
    In another matter, the council narrowly approved Butler, Fairman and Seufert of Merrillville as temporary consulting engineers for town projects with a 3-2 vote. 
    After a failed motion by Councilman Larry Just, R-4th, to name Commonwealth Engineers, the town's sewer engineering firm from Indianapolis, as consulting project engineers, Mika successfully moved to hire local firm BFS with the support of Brooker and Councilman Ray Talarek, R-1st. 
    Brooker said BFS had quoted the lowest hourly figure for the work at $71 per hour with free travel and phone time but Hatch, who had supported hiring Commonwealth, said he thought BFS had changed their terms following the quote given during interviews Jan. 29. 
    Angered at the vote results, Just alleged that Brooker and Mika had a friendship with the Merrillville firm and had supported a motion to hire them without justification. 
    "They must be your buddies," he said twice following the vote. 
    Hatch said he would seek a written proposal with the promised hourly rates from BFS prior to signing off on the matter. 
    In other business, the council gave preliminary approval to a sidewalk ordinance variance that will allow merchants to display merchandise outside their stores within a two-and-one-half foot boundary line. Permits for the variance will cost merchants $15 each and be effective for one year. 
    The display of merchandise on the sidewalks outside downtown shops, a Lowell custom, had become an issue some months ago when complaints led to numerous citations against merchants, who claimed the were being unfairly harassed by the town.


Subdivision gets early OK

By Sean McNab 
Star Staff Writer

CROWN POINT - The council chambers were packed Monday with homeowners who were unhappy with the possible construction of a new southeast side subdivision - Forest View Farms. 
    Located directly to the south of the Stillwater subdivision, east of Northwood and north of 129th Avenue, Hawk Development Corporation took the first of four steps in getting its residential development passed. 
    "We are here today asking to rezone these 100 acres from R-1 single family to a Planned Unit Development," explained Jack Slager, the President of the Hawk Development Corporation. 
    The purpose for the change was to create a subdivision which will have a number of different types of housing, instead of the restricted single-family used in an R-1 zoning. 
    The architectural plans begin with 160 carriage homes, each of which are two story, eight unit buildings with a one-car garage. The square footage of the homes will be between 1,100 and 1,500 with a price range from $130,000 to $160,000. 
    Following will be 170 "Hillside Villas" constructed in two-, four-, or six-unit structures designed to fit in the hillside of landscape. The units will be one story in the front and two stories in the rear with a two-car garage. 
    The range in size will be from 1,400 to 1,600 square feet with a pricing from $160,000 to $200,000. 
    In addition, 64 townhomes are projected to be built in four- to six-unit compartments with a master suite on the main floor and a two-car garage. 
    The size will range from 1,500 to 1,800 square feet with a cost between $140,000 and $180,000. Lastly, 53 patio homes will be constructed in one-story settings with two-car garages. The size of each will range from 1400-2000 square feet with a price from $180,000 to $300,000. 
     Most of those in attendance were not against the creation of the new subdivision. The outcry resulted from the increased drainage flow that will take affect with the new homes. 
    "I look at the existing standing water and drainage problems," said Steve Savich, a resident of Northwood subdivision. "I am presently standing in a backyard of water and can tell you that the water now coming from the ditches is overflowing. I implore you to come out to one of our subdivisions to take a look." 
    Slager explained that two detention basins will be created to help alleviate possible flooding, but that solution fall on deaf ears. 
    "We are under-capacity to handle the water problems that we are presently having to deal with," commented Brian Farkas, another Northwood resident. "Lateral one of the Beaver Dam Ditch is overburdened and needs major improvements. These additional basins will not be enough to control all the drainage, and the result will be devastating to the all of the homeowners in the surrounding subdivisions." 
    In addition to the drainage issue, some residents worried as to what was going to happen to the roads, specifically 129th Avenue, when construction began. 
    "It really took a long time to get 129th Avenue repaired and looking the way it does now. I just wonder how bad it is going to look after construction trucks drive over it for the next three months," stated Jeff Spies, a 12-year Northwood resident. 
    Board members suggested that possibly a road could be constructed from the easternmost end on 129th Avenue to Delaware Street so that construction trucks would not have to travel through the adjoining subdivisions. 
    Slager stated that the addition was not in the present plans but he would take the suggestion into consideration. 
    According to Hawk's plan, it would take approximately five years to complete Forest View's 447 units. 
    The Plan Commission unanimously passed the special use PUD. Primary plat approval will be considered at next month's meeting on March 12.


Grade site plan meets opposition

By Andrew Steele 
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT - School corporation curriculum director Jim Hardman on Monday recommended to the School Board that it adopt a grade configuration that would keep kindergarten through fourth-grade at the six elementary schools, transform Taft into a fifth- and sixth-grade school, and use the current high school as a seventh- and eighth-grade middle school. 
    But the recommendation immediately drew criticism from a resident, a member of the task force that made the recommendation, and a School Board member. 
    Hardman defended the recommendation on several grounds. 
    He said bringing all fifth- and sixth-graders into one building would provide opportunities for focusing more specifically on the needs of students at that level, would help in the transition to middle school, and would allow for the creation of a more consistent curriculum. 
    "When you bring all the teachers into one building, there is a great advantage in bringing the curriculum together," Hardman said. 
    He also said the five-six school would help balance class sizes and unite graduating classes earlier in their schooling. 
    The other configuration considered was creation of two sixth- through eighth-grade middle schools. 
    Hardman said that option was rejected because grouping sixth-graders with eighth-graders can lead to discipline problems; it would not remove as many students from crowded elementary schools; and it would mean sixth-graders would take the ISTEP exam during a "transition year." 
    The 14-member grade configuration task force voted 11-3 in favor of the K-4, 5-6, 9-12 configuration. 
    Winfield resident Bridget Harrison spoke against the plan. 
    She said officials should use the current high school as a seventh- and eighth-grade middle school and transform Taft into a seventh kindergarten through sixth-grade elementary school. 
    She said the task force recommendation would lead to too many school changes for students; that many fifth- and sixth-graders would miss out on activities like Spell Bowl, because the school corporation would have only one team, rather than six; that parental involvement would decline as a result of decreased activities; and that the task force recommendation does not solve overcrowding problems. 
    Karen Schrum, a dissenting member of the task force, said she favors two sixth- through eighth-grade middle schools. 
    That was the school corporation's original position when it decided to build a new high school, Schrum said, and she said she will present the original plan to the board at its March 12 meeting. 
    Board member Michael McCormick was also upset with the recommendation. 
    He pointed out that a resolution passed at his first School Board meeting reflected the two middle school configuration, and that he ran for election supporting that plan. 
    McCormick said he wouldn't overturn that resolution without hard evidence. 
    "There's nothing in this board packet that gives me any concrete data," he said. 
    The administration shouldn't "ask us to change (the original resolution) without overwhelming evidence you found something better," McCormick added. 
    He said he was troubled by the absence of data, especially since board members two years ago had requested that administrators back any proposed policy changes with a cost-benefit analysis. 
    McCormick told Hardman that if the administrator needed another copy of that memo, he had extra copies.




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