Home World Porter County commissioners put off appointments to fire protection board

Porter County commissioners put off appointments to fire protection board

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The Porter County Board of Commissioners announced its intention Tuesday morning to extend the deadline for applicants to the West Porter Township Fire Protection District Board to April 18 at 4:30 p.m. to attract candidates with an understanding of taxing. Board President Jim Biggs, R-North, said the decision was made at his urging.

“All of our board members have a deep understanding of fire services,” he said of the four members currently serving. Tax knowledge would fill a gap.

During the public comment session at the end of the meeting, one of those current West Porter Fire Protection District Board members, Rob Rabelhofer, a career firefighter not on the West Porter volunteer force, expressed his disappointment that the commissioners were not prepared to move forward with the four candidates it did receive.

“Your own posting on the website doesn’t say anything about tax experience,” he said, adding that while he appreciates taxing experience, he believes fire experience to be more important.

He also encouraged the commissioners, who had agreed at the suggestion of Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, to conduct background checks on all board appointment applicants, to make an effort to avoid conflicts of interest with future appointees.

“Let’s talk about the 950-pound gorilla in the room,” Biggs replied. “You’re talking about our facilities director. He had that appointment before he had that job,” he said of Joseph Wiszowaty, who was recently hired.

Wiszowaty serves on the West Porter Township Fire Protection District. He held one of the votes on March 20 that prevented the formation of a fire protection district that would have replaced the Lakes of the Four Seasons Volunteer Fire Force which serves West Porter Township, Winfield Township, and the Town of Winfield.

He voted “present,” while fellow board member Craig Klauer voted no. Members Rabelhofer and Brad Zupan voted yes, but three yeahs were necessary in addition to unanimous approval by the Winfield Township Board to make a go of a new, joint fire protection district.

The matter also required the majority of the West Porter Township Fire Protection District Board to vote in favor of the formation of the district. The Town of Winfield had been involved in talks but pulled out of the actual vote.

“I want to see this done right, not quickly,” Biggs told Rabelhofer of the decision to proceed more slowly.

Shelley Jones is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.



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