Here’s a look at the three conditions that the Porter County Council imposed
Thursday as part of the 10-year tax abatement awarded to Porter Health
System’s new hospital at U.S. 6 and Ind. 49.
Ambulance Service: Pending final contract negotiations, Porter Health
System will agree to continue its countywide ambulance service after its
current contract with the county expires in 2011.
The county pays the hospital an annual subsidy of $500,000 for running the
service, which historically has been a money-loser. That subsidy used to be
twice as much, but the hospital agreed to a funding cut after the Bethlehem
Steel bankruptcy in 2001 caused massive funding shortfalls for the county
and other local government. Before the hospital took over the ambulance
service, the county ran its own EMS department that cost even more.
It remains to be seen just how much the county will pay Porter Health System
under the new contract.
North Porter County Commissioner John Evans last week called on the hospital
to continue the EMS service under the existing $500,000 subsidy. But on
Thursday, Porter CEO Jonathan Nalli said an unforeseen event occurred after
the current contract was put in place: The Valparaiso Fire Department began
its own EMS service, which has compounded the hospital’s ambulance losses.
Nalli said Porter Hospital will commit to continue the ambulance service,
but with the understanding that the subsidy should increase. He also
requested that negotiations begin over that contract amount as soon as
possible; a committee formed earlier this year that includes County Council
member Laura Blaney, D-at large, is to begin those talks.
Abatement Fee: The county will charge Porter Hospital an annual tax
abatement fee, as allowed by Indiana law, over the 10-year abatement period.
The fee, to be calculated annually by the county auditor, will be based on
the difference between what the hospital will pay in property taxes with
what it would have paid without the abatement. The rate of the fee was set
at 10 percent, lower than the state maximum of 15 percent.
The fee is projected to generate a total of $800,000 over the life of the
abatement, said hospital attorney James Crawford.
The abatement fee was proposed by County Council member Michael Bucko,
D-4th, who called for the revenue to go toward the Porter County Advisory
Redevelopment Commission, of which he is a member.
Bucko said the revenues should be used for improvements along the U.S. 6
corridor, directly enhancing the nearby businesses and establishing the new
hospital as a “clear partner” with its Liberty Township neighbors. “I think
there is a place for it, and it’s very appropriate,” said Bucko, who
originally proposed a 15 percent fee. Crawford counterproposed a 10 percent
fee, which the council accepted.
Worker Protection: A Project Labor Agreement (PLA) will also be required
as part of the abatement.
PLAs, also known as pre-hire collective bargaining agreements, spell out the
conditions between the contractor and the building trades.
Bucko proposed the PLA condition. He and other council members indicated
that they want to see favorable terms for the labor workers building the
hospital. But Crawford noted that PLAs can be mutually beneficial; for
example, some PLAs include no-strike clauses.
Nalli said Porter hospital supports a PLA, but that it actually has little
say in the matter. Such agreements, he said, are negotiated between the
project manager and the building trades.
But, speaking from the floor, a representative of the Northwest Indiana
Building Trades Association said it’s not uncommon for PLAs to be included
as a condition of tax abatements, since the business receiving the abatement
gives marching orders to its construction manager. The council agreed, and
included the PLA as an abatement condition.