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
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.
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)
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.