Government will soon have new income from the investment of its hospital
sale proceeds through a non-profit charitable foundation.
Both the County
Council and the Board of Commissioners have discussed possible uses over the
last few months and on Tuesday talked about working together on a
comprehensive capital needs plan.
Council member Dan
Whitten, D-at large, asked Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, during Tuesday’s
Council meeting what the Commissioners are planning to do with what remains
of the $10 million in hospital proceeds that was not invested and set aside
for other projects.
Biggs said the
Commissioners anticipate coming to the Council with a list of projects to
get its input. Those projects will include renovations to the County
Administration Building and Courthouse, sections of the Expo Center, and the
North County Government Complex in Portage.
are currently having a needs study done of the annex building in Portage.
The question Biggs said he hopes to have answered is whether it will be more
beneficial to rehab the existing facility or construct a new building
Biggs said the
Commissioners might look to bonding rather than using hospital proceeds to
do the work required, but told the Council it will be their decision since
they act as the County’s fiscal arm. But the Commissioners won’t know their
options until the study is done, he said.
“All we know is
what you know. We have a very old building that is not functioning as well
as it should be and because of that it is costing us more money to operate
than normally,” said Biggs.
Whitten asked if a
new building is needed, would it be at the same location on Willowcreek Ave.
or would it be placed in a more central location within Portage, as had been
advocated by Portage Mayor James Snyder. Biggs replied there are factors
that need to be considered for a new location such as traffic flow and
security, being that it is a courthouse.
Mike Jessen, R-4th, said Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, told
him the Commissioners are making the plan comprehensive for the County’s
Whitten asked that
Council members be included in the plan discussions.
financial situation the County is in and the way money is going to be
flowing in, that the Council be involved in the planning. I don’t want to be
presented a plan. I want to be involved in the creation of that plan because
the hospital interest money is under our oversight,” Whitten told Biggs. “I
have a lot of priorities in my own mind.”
Biggs agreed. “I
think it is a good idea to have a couple members of the County Council to
form a plan because, as you know, money is everything. I think it is
imperative of having people who know where the County is financially.”
Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, asked if the Commissioners have moved ahead on the 800
megahertz emergency response system upgrades for local fire, police and EMS
Biggs said that
project is “still in the infancy stage.” The Commissioners and the E-911
Center are currently identifying where to put communications towers but have
not gotten deep into looking at equipment needs.
Local fire and
police departments are asking questions of the Commissioners on an almost
weekly basis about how to move forward, Biggs said. “I will say publicly
that we are going to help them as much as we can without hurting ourselves,”
In the business
portion of the meeting, the Council approved the Commissioner’s request to
allocate $963,568 in unspent funds towards the building of the new animal
shelter that were previously appropriated out of hospital sale proceeds in
It also approved
the $1 million in donations to complete construction. Valparaiso resident
Jacki Stutzman made the donation of $1 million for the new shelter last May.
the Animal Shelter is on track to be finished this month. The County will
then prepare the inside of the new facility near the County Expo Center at
Ind. 49 and Division Rd. and open it around June.
“It looks great,”
said Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, who recently toured the
construction. “It looks like a dream is coming true here in Porter County
for the Animal Shelter. It’s a wonderful thing for the animals. They’re
going to love it.”
The Council with
the Board of Commissioners will meet as the Porter County Government
Nonprofit Charitable Foundation Board on Tuesday, March 21 where they will
hear the latest investment performance of the hospital sale principal.