Attorney Kenneth J. Allen’s quest to convert a billboard into a dynamic electronic sign has quietly ended.
Assistant Town Attorney Connor Nolan announced during Monday’s Chesterton Town Council meeting that Allen’s attorney sent a letter to the town last week, requesting that the application for the billboard be withdrawn.
The Town Council had the final say on the matter, but the proposal was unlikely to receive a positive vote.
The Town’s Advisory Plan Commission on Dec. 15 had voted to recommend that the Town Council reject the injury lawyer’s request.
Allen is having new offices for the Kenneth J. Allen Law Group built in the Coffee Creek development. The acquisition of land for the project included ownership of the billboard along Ind. 49 that now includes an advertisement for the Allen Law Group.
Over a course of many months, Allen and his attorneys attempted to convince the town’s Advisory Plan Commission to let him turn the billboard into an electronic sign. Allen needed a modification of a Planned Unit Development (PUD) agreement for the sign’s conversion to occur. He promised that other businesses within Coffee Creek could use the sign and that the project would be tastefully executed.
A number of residents opposed the proposal, noting that an electronic sign would be a distraction to motorists traveling on Ind. 49. A majority of the Advisory Plan Commission members also shared those reservations.
The process through the Advisory Plan Commission, though, did affirm that Allen has clear ownership of the billboard. There was a question that the billboard was built as a temporary structure in 1997 to promote the Coffee Creek development.
In other business, the council unanimously approved a new update for the town’s unsafe building code.
Nolan told the council that the new ordinance in particular focuses on defining property maintenance standards for when town officials can step in.
“It’s an important issue that has come up with residents,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Fisher (I-District 5)
The council also agreed with Chesterton Fire Chief Eric Camel’s assessment that it was time to retire Engine 511.
Camel said that Engine 511 had served the town since 1992 and it didn’t make sense to repair the chassis because of the vehicle’s age.
Councilman James Ton (R-District 1) noted that the long list of repairs for Engine 511 “read like an obituary” for the vehicle.
Bids for the town’s street projects for this year were also opened.
Milestone Contractors is the apparent low bidder to repave East Porter Avenue from S. Calumet Road to Ind. 49 and from Ind. 49 to County Road 250 E. The project is being funded, in part by a $383,772.75 grant from Indiana’s Community Crossings program for road projects in 2023.
Milestone submitted a bid of $587,018.90 while the bid from Rieth-Riley Construction Co. was $596,818.50. Milestone also had the apparent low bid for the contract to pave other streets in town at $998,352, compared to $1,015,580 from Rieth-Riley.
Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg said the bids must be evaluated before the final award is made.
Council also heard from Tom Calkusic, who complimented Chesterton Police Chief Tim Richardson for how he assisted a postal carrier in returning to work after she had been robbed at gunpoint.
Two men from Northwest Indiana are facing a number of federal charges involving the theft of mail. One of the charges concern the armed robbery of the woman of the valuable arrow key — which opens post office boxes — on Oct. 31 at the Eagle Crossing apartment complex.
Calkusic has a master’s degree in psychology and works to counsel those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), He noted that Richardson accompanied the postal worker on the first day she first returned to the job, which was a thoughtful action considering what she had been through.
Richardson said he knew the postal worker because she had prior employment as a police dispatcher for the Michigan City Police Department. Richardson worked for the Michigan City Police Department for 27 years before becoming Chesterton’s Police Chief in August 2021.