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Porter County tourism board to expand

Updated: August 20, 2013 4:26PM



VALPARAISO — The Porter County Board of Commissioners is expanding the Indiana Dunes Tourism board of directors by two people to grow tourism opportunities in the county, including amateur sports competitions.

“It’s really big business,” Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, said during Tuesday’s meeting, adding soccer and other sports tournaments bring visitors “from all over.”

Lake County is already making a lot of money with such ventures, and Porter County is more centrally located, he said, adding the move could include building indoor facilities for hockey and swimming, among other possibilities.

Commissioners expect to appoint two additional people to the tourism board as soon as their April 16 meeting. That would bring the total number of people on the board to 11, with commissioners having five of those appointments. The rest of the appointments are made by the Porter County Council; the mayors of Portage and Valparaiso; and elected officials in Duneland and south county.

In other business, commissioners gave a first reading to an ordinance banning protests an hour before or after and within 300 feet of military funerals and burials.

The ordinance establishes a fine of no more than $1,000 and/or up to three months imprisonment for violations. Three violations can result in a mandatory fine of at least $500 and five days in prison.

The move follows similar ordinances passed in other county communities. A recent ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, regarding a case in Manchester, Mo., paved the way for such ordinances, which target protests at military funerals by Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

“I just want to commend you for doing this,” said Kathy Elkins of Valparaiso, who has two sons in the military.

The commissioners also approved contracts for consultants for Auditor Bob Wichlinski’s office, contingent on funding from the county council. Three of the contracts together are not to exceed a total of $207,000; a fourth contract is for $7,850.

The council is in the process of zeroing out the auditor’s non-reverting fund, which would have covered the cost of the contracts. Wichlinski will have to go before the council for approval for the spending.

Treasurer Mike Bucko also will have to go before the council for a consultant’s contract not to exceed $25,000, because that, too, would have come out of the non-reverting fund.

Bucko said he also has funds to cover the cost through his department’s budget.

Additionally, the commissioners passed a resolution supporting the Airport Zone Development Plan, a joint project with the city of Valparaiso, the county, and Porter County Regional Airport. The resolution includes the possibility of a second north-south runway, at 7,000 feet, on the east edge of the airport property.

Commissioners also awarded a bid of $377,000 for new HVAC systems at the jail, the courthouse and the administration building, though the jail has funds to pay for that portion of the project.

Mechanical Concepts was the lowest of three bids for the project.



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