Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners and Council OK hospital money for 2017 ambulance contract

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Without much discussion by either board Tuesday, the Porter County Commissioners and County Council both voted unanimously for $517,000 in remaining proceeds from the sale of Porter Memorial Hospital to be used to cover subsidies to Porter Regional Hospital, the City of Portage and Portage Twp. to provide ambulance service to the unincorporated parts of the county.

Most of the discussion took place at last month’s County Council meeting when the Commissioners originally proposed using county income tax (CEDIT) sources. Council member Dan Whitten, D-at large, felt that it was risky to dip into CEDIT as the amount of unallocated funds is diminishing and the County is facing other funding projects.

The County last year set aside $10 million of hospital sale proceeds for capital projects and emergencies while about $140 million was invested into the Porter County Government Charitable Foundation to generate a higher rate of interest.

Other Council members sided with Whitten for the ambulance costs to be paid out of the available hospital proceeds and the Commissioners came back Tuesday with a request for those funds after voting 3-0 to approve the appropriation at their meeting earlier in the day.

“I think we have discussed this ad nauseam,” said Whitten, making the motion to approve. The motion was passed 7-0 by the Council.

In negotiations with the Porter Regional Hospital this year, the Commissioners and the Hospital agreed to a lower cost of $450,000 for ambulance services instead of $750,000 annually and are discussing a new contract.

Airport grant

Both Commissioners and Council approved a second request -- an appropriation of $317,197 in Major Moves funds from the sale of the Toll Road to match a grant from the Regional Development Authority for the Porter County Regional Airport runway reconstruction. The funds were approved last year but the payment was delayed due to some additional paperwork.

Health Dept. fees

The Commissioners at their meeting also voted 3-0 in favor of an ordinance to increase fees at the Porter County Health Department.

County Health Board attorney Dave Hollenbeck said the Health board would like to request a rather modest increase in its charges for certificates, some of which haven’t changed for years.

The intention, Hollenbeck said, is to “correlate” the fees charged for services against the fees of providing those services in an effort to free up money in the Health Department’s general fund. The fees go into a freestanding fund for the department.

In the new fees structure, a birth certificate cost would rise from $6 to $8, a death certificate from $9 to $10, a paternity affidavit fee from $25 to $30, and an affidavit amendment fee from $25 to $30.

The increased fees, Hollenbeck said, are in the bottom half of comparative counties in terms of what is charged. The higher fees collected will lower the tax rate for the Health Dept., which has its own rate.

No one from the public spoke in favor of or in opposition to the ordinance.


Posted 5/17/2017




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