Starke County Highway Department May Repair Bass Lake Patio, Amid Ongoing Safety Concerns

Concerns about the safety of the Bass Lake Beach House patio have led Starke County officials to look into repairing it themselves. The patio was the topic of a heated discussion during Tuesday’s County Park Board meeting. Board member Debbie Mix said the facility’s operator, Callahan Development, LLC, still hasn’t made repairs that have been discussed for several months or longer.

Her biggest concern was the patio’s guardrail. “I’m telling you, you can take that fencing and almost lift it up out of the cement because the cement is cracked,” Mix said. “There’s a hole where the posts go in. The posts are rotted. I mean, even if you wanted to cement them in, the post itself is rotted.” Mix was worried that someone could get hurt, and the county would be liable.

She repeatedly argued that Callahan was in breach of its lease. “They’ve already been given 30-day notice,” Mix said. “They were given a 30-day notice a year ago. And they haven’t done it. So if we’re going to be complacent, then we’re a joke. Then at that point, we might as well not even exist, if we can’t enforce them to do what we were asked to do.”

But County Attorney Marty Lucas wasn’t so sure. He pointed out that Callahan’s representatives previously said they were working on the repairs and that the structure was safe, overall. Lucas didn’t think he had the capability to prove otherwise.

Mix continued arguing that Callahan had breached its contract, even as Board President Roger Chaffins tried to move on to other topics. “I know you’re frustrated about it,” Chaffins said. “But I’ve heard it. I’ve had enough of it. . . . What do you want me to do? You want me to go out there and hold a whip over him and say, ‘You do this right now or I’m going to kick you!’?”

Mix replied, “No, I want a letter saying the contract is broken!”

“Then we get sued, and it costs us thousands of dollars,” Chaffins responded.

“Not if we’re in the right!” Mix said.

Eventually, Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler agreed to have someone install caution tape around the railing. He also offered to have his operations foreman and another construction person take a look and see what they think needs to be done to repair the patio.

Ritzler said that if the job is small, the highway department might be able to do it, with the approval of the county commissioners. The county could then charge Callahan a bill. Lucas felt that solution was more practical than threatening a lawsuit.