Chesterton Tribune



Biggs wants hospital abatement tossed

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During Tuesday’s Porter County Council meeting, Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, attempted to make a motion to withdraw the ten-year abatement for Porter Hospital saying he’s tired of the “shenanigans for the better part of two years.”

Biggs said there has been insufficient communication from Porter Hospital representatives to his questions, such as why the original building permits for the hospital and the nearby office building have gone missing from the Plan Commission office, why the existing permits have inconsistent information and why the Assessor has not been allowed inside the office building to assess it.

“I think it should matter what kind of relationship we have and so far that relationship is one-sided,” Biggs said.

He also expressed frustration regarding the dispute over the assessment, with the hospital arguing its’ value is under $40 million and the County saying it’s $244.5 million. The dispute has prevented the County from collecting taxes.

“How on God’s green earth are we ever going to come to some middle ground?” he said, expressing his belief that the abatement should never have been granted in the first place.

Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said he felt it was improper of Biggs to make the motion since he was not on the Council when the abatement was granted in 2009. The issues with the building permits and the assessments are not the Council’s concern, Whitten said, only the determination of whether the hospital is in the compliance with the terms of the abatement.

Biggs said he didn’t believe the hospital is in compliance, which Whitten agreed with, because Porter has not agreed to a $130 million or higher assessment.

Whitten said Porter Hospital is aware of the current non-compliance because they received the letter which he and Council Vice-President Karen Conover, R-3rd, sent informing them the terms of the abatement require that the hospital be valued at $130 million or higher. The letter gives the opportunity to reconcile the value or give up the abatement.

Whitten said the goal for the Council is to make sure the taxpayers get “the best bang for their buck” out of the hospital and that could be through the abatement.

Biggs alleged there is a lack of diplomacy on the hospital’s part considering the County has been generous in awarding Porter the County ambulance contract and clinical services for County employees.

“I don’t have sucker written across my forehead. I will not agree to this abatement,” Biggs said.

The Council ended up not voting on Biggs’ motion.



Posted 4/23/2014