Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners explain and defend capital upgrade plan

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Guest Commentary

By Jeff Good, Laura Blaney

and Jim Biggs,

Porter County Commissioners

In July, the Porter County Board of Commissioners proposed a Building For The Future Capital Upgrade Plan which was developed to address long deferred maintenance and future space needs for county buildings and infrastructure.

Our priorities were to address needs and not “wants”, anticipate future space needs, and to do so in a cost-effective way with NO tax increases. We spent many months evaluating our facilities and examining options, choosing six projects that met those priorities.

One of those projects, the North County Complex in Portage, has been the topic of recent controversy. Nearly 40 years ago, the county purchased 13 acres of land on Willowcreek Road, just south of Highway 6, and built the current structure. County officials understood then, as we do now, that the location of this building is tantamount given the facility's expected function. It is a location that is easily accessible to all Porter County residents, more so for Portage, and will become more convenient with the potential of the Willowcreek extension.

Over the last several months, we examined every consideration, studied every option (including downtown Portage), and evaluated potential costs before coming to the conclusion that improving and adding on to the existing facility was the most rational and cost-effective decision. Our predecessors had the foresight to include enough land to allow for expansion based on future needs, which is exactly what we have proposed.

After our plan was developed, presented and ready for final approval, Portage city officials presented us a Cost/Benefit Analysis proposing a partnership to build a complex on Central Avenue in downtown Portage.

We’ve examined their analysis, individually met on at least two separate occasions with Portage city officials, and have had lengthy telephone discussions about it with Mayor (James) Snyder and City Council members (Mark) Oprisko and (Sue) Lynch.

The analysis was deficient in the cost assumptions. Building an entirely new facility from ground up would be much more expensive than estimated in the analysis. It does not account for the higher construction costs of a multi-story building as compared to a single story. It fails to account for the additional costs of building courtrooms versus standard office space, or federal regulations which require specific and expensive security protocols for new judiciary buildings. In twenty years, if we need additional space, there would be nowhere to grow.

The Central Avenue location does not consider access needs for ALL county residents. Almost every resident in Porter County can easily access the current location from Highway 6. The downtown location would require most residents to travel farther in congested traffic. This is exactly why the current North County Complex was originally built on Willowcreek and not in downtown Portage.

We have made every effort to explain our reasoning with Portage officials who are willing to listen. As County Commissioners, it is our responsibility to represent ALL county residents. We continue to believe that our current plan is the most responsible and cost-effective choice for county taxpayers.



Posted 9/21/2017




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