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Seeking $5M bond to save lakefront

BEVERLY SHORES — With no help on the way from state or federal agencies, the Town of Beverly Shores has decided to to go it alone to protect its lakefront.

An an emergency meeting on Friday, the Town Council voted to authorize legal and financial counsel to move ahead in procuring a $5 million bond issue addressing the ongoing erosion crisis and infrastructure.

If secured, the money would be used for immediate reinforcements to Lake Front Drive, as well as funding long term erosion solutions.

The council also agreed to extend the town’s emergency resolution which has Lake Front Drive shut down on the east and west ends – the east end open only to local homeowners.

“The pavement of the road is being undercut and compromised now,” Town Marshal Ed Clapp said.

In spite of the obvious threat to the Lake Front Drive, and homes on the south side of the road, Gov. Eric Holcomb continues to withhold Declaration of Emergency status, denying FEMA aid to the region.

“The erosion crisis continues to threaten East Lake Front Drive and all the utilities beneath, public parking lots, access to the 1933 World’s Fair Century of Progress Homes and the Indiana Dunes National Park beach access,” Town Council President Geof Benson said.

“The town has spent its borrowed reserves dealing with the crisis since November and is desperate for financial aid,” he said.

“Though NIRPC sent a letter and resolution to Governor Holcomb pleading for assistance as well, so far none has been forthcoming.

“No one is coming to our rescue; not the state nor the federal agencies.”

The NIRPC letter, signed by chairman Michael Griffin, was sent to Holcomb in late February. It thanked the governor for visiting the lakefront and signing an executive order calling on state agencies to monitor the situation and prepare for an emergency declaration if warranted.

However, it called on Holcomb to issue the emergency declaration immediately and not leave it as “unsettled business” because it is crucial to addressing the situation.

“... the enormity of the challenges and needed remedies for the Northwest Indiana shoreline erosion and high water levels, exceed any of the local resources that any single or several cities and towns could marshal,” Griffin wrote.

“The public financial resources that have been conferred upon local governments under Indiana law were not designed fully to address an exigency of the magnitude of Lake Michigan’s high water level and consequential unusually damaging erosion being experienced in Northwest Indiana.”

The NIRPC resolution states that all municipalties, townships and towns in Northwest Indiana are “impacted by the health and resilience of the beaches and shoreline of Lake Michigan” and “record-breaking high water levels are damaging infrastructure, destroying property and impacting tourism ...”

It points out that Indiana Dunes State Park beaches are disappearing; Michigan City’s largest park has been inundated; cities like Portage, Whiting, Hammond and Michigan City have “considerable public investments” along the lake “private property, utilities, public roads and public beaches” are “under constant threat.”

It calls on the governor to declare a public emergency; authorize INDOT or the National Guard to help transport materials to impacted sites; call on state and federal agencies to bring necessary resources, and adopt necessary measures to protect resources, prepare for an enduring threat from the lake and guide long-term solutions.

It points out that Beverly Shores has spent considerable capital, using debt financing and donations to secure and prevent the “destruction of Lake Front Drive and more funding is urgently needed.”

Beverly Shores currently has two outstanding debts: a water bond with approximately $2 million remaining on four years left to maturity; and a Go Bond with seven years remaining on $1.2 million, according to Benson.

Town Council attorney Connor H. Nolan will contact a bond issuing legal firm for the best rate and engage them to work with financial consultants London Witte to prepare the legal documents, Benson said.

Nolan will also issue the tax-exempt opinion and present an engagement letter and preliminary schedule at the next Town Council meeting. Indianapolis-based London Witte advised on Beverly Shores’ prior two bond offerings.

Earlier this year, the town raised nearly $70,000 from local residents to help emergency repairs, but the bond issue would provide immediate and long-term assistance for shoreline repair and upkeep and grant match, Town Councilman John Blackburn said.

“We need money in the powder keg to apply for matching grants, and that process can take a year or longer,” he said.

While Porter County has $174 million in its coffers from the 2007 sale of the former county-owned hospital, to secure a loan from them requires unanimous consent from their board of commissioners, according to Benson.

“Not an easy undertaking,” he said. “A bond issue provides the emergency support needed at this time.”

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A sea of green on Franklin Street

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Officials: At least two more COVID-19 cases confirmed in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — Two more Indiana residents have tested positive for COVID-19 – an adult after traveling to Boston to attend a biotech firm’s meeting, and a youngster whose school has now been closed, according to state officials.

The weekend announcements brought the state’s number of confirmed cases to three. A fourth “presumptive positive” case in northeast Indiana has not been confirmed by state officials.

Hickory Elementary School in Avon is closed for two weeks after a student tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

All schools in the city were placed on an e-learning day schedule Monday, where students stay home and get assignments online, to curb the spread of the illness, district officials said in a message on their website.

Noblesville Schools also announced that a parent has been directed to self-quarantine after attending an out-of-state event where someone else tested positive for the illness, though school will stay open.

The Hendricks County Health Department notified Avon Schools on Sunday that a student tested positive.

“It is our intent to provide our Hickory students with ongoing learning opportunities, which may include e-learning and other experiences,” the school district said on its website. “Hickory students and staff will be able to return on Monday, April 6, following spring break.”

The adult with a confirmed case, who also lives in Hendricks County, attended a meeting for Biogen Inc. last month and “developed mild flu-like symptoms” days later, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

The person is in isolation and not being hospitalized. State officials said several COVID-19 cases have been tied to the Boston meeting, including a Marion County resident identified Friday as Indiana’s first case.

The fourth “presumptive positive” case, which has not been confirmed by the CDC or ISDH, was reported at Parkview Noble Hospital in Kendallville by the Noble County Health Department.

It said the 54-year-old man did not have school-age children, and officials were investigating possible contacts. Both the East Noble and West Noble school districts remained open Monday.

But a walk-in clinic where the patient went before being referred to the hospital was closed Monday until further notice for deep sanitizing.

The new cases did not come as a surprise to state officials.

“With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the United States and the fact that we are a mobile society, this new case isn’t surprising, but we know it causes concern in the community,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said.

She urged state residents to take “common-sense precautions’’ and educate themselves.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 100,000 people and killed more than 3,400, the vast majority of them in China. Most cases have been mild, and more than half of those infected have recovered.

In the United States, as of noon Monday, the CDC reports 423 confirmed cases in 35 states, with 19 deaths reported.

Of those confirmed cases, 72 were travel-related, 29 came through person-to-person spread, and 322 cases are under investigation to determine the cause.