Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners hire Umbaugh to study a new stormwater fee

Back To Front Page


Making headway on a recent call to maintain drainage throughout the county, the Porter County Board of Commissioners gave a nod to H.J. Umbaugh and Associates to study how a stormwater management board would operate in the county.

The study would also investigate the implementation of a fee structure.

Talks of forming such a board began last year between the Commissioners and County Council. Such a board would replace the current County Drainage Board and assess a fee on residents in the unincorporated areas to fund ongoing drainage improvements.

The Commissioners have tried to address drainage issues by committing $1 million in county economic development income tax annually over the last few years but thats hardly enough considering that a previous countywide study identified ten major projects totaling more than $20 million in costs.

County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, had said the county would be able to bond for the projects with the funds from the stormwater fee, as well as freeing up income tax dollars to be appropriated for drainage work.

Cities and towns in Porter County such as Chesterton have a stormwater management fee and drainage projects could get done anywhere in the unincorporated county. Right now the Drainage Board may only work on properties with regulated drains.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said that Umbaugh will review what fee structure would be appropriate, and added that Umbaugh will take into account fees already assessed by conservancy districts, to ensure that residents will not be faced with overlapping fees for the same service.

Umbaugh will also advise officials as to when a stormwater management board could take over for the drainage board. You cant have both, Evans said.

Drainage Board President Dave Burrus has supported the potential move, saying it will generate more funding needed to continue with the ongoing improvement projects.

The Commissioners agreed 3-0 to pay Umbaugh up to $15,000 for its services out of CEDIT funds.

Natural Ovens

The large dome building formerly belonging to Natural Ovens Bakery, just off Ind. 49, will be demolished soon.

The Commissioners voted 3-0 to deed the propertywhich was on the countys tax sale listover to the City of Valparaiso, which intends to demolish the building and sell the land parcel to an interested buyer.

The goal is not to have a government building or a park so the property could be put back on the tax rolls, Valparaiso City Attorney and Economic Director Patrick Lyp said.

Lyp came to the Commissioners in August expressing the Citys interest in acquiring the deed and said that approximately $1.4 million in back taxes is owed.

The dome, located in the Eastporte Center Industrial Park near the Porter County Regional Airport, has been mainly vacant since 2005, when Natural Ovens went bankrupt. Ownership has been transferred a few times.

No one bid on the property when it was offered at last Octobers County tax sale, Lyp said, and the city will attempt to contact the owner to see if there is any interest in somebody developing it. If not, the City plans to go to circuit court to acquire the certificate of ownership.

Lyp said Valparaiso will offer the Commissioners a 30 percent share of the future tax revenues while the city would get the remaining 70 percent.

The city plans to use its own funds to raze the dome, Lyp said.

Lyp added that it will be the citys loss entirely if the property does not sell but expressed confidence that it will. I think we shall have some positive results. Lyp said.

Yes, for the both of us, Evans replied.

Moving Out

In a separate matter, Beatrice Owen of the Porter County Substance Abuse Council reported that, with the Drug Free Community Grant the PCSAC has received, it will move out of the County Administration Building and relocate to 254 Morgan Blvd. in Valparaiso, formerly the Porter County PACT office.

Owen said she expects the move to happen as early as March 7.

The Commissioners also approved the following on Tuesday:

The purchase of an interactive whiteboard worth $6,780 and S12,000 for furniture in the Porter County Alcohol and Drug Offender Services classroom, located on the bottom floor of the County Administration Center. The classroom will soon be used as another meeting room for County boards like the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals. The money will come out of the Commissioners CCD funds.

The annual financial agreement with the County Tourism Bureau to disperse innkeepers tax funds to the Porter County Parks and Recreation and three County venues overseen by the Commissioners. The Parks will receive $35,640. The Expo Center, the Memorial Opera House, and the Old Jail Museum will each receive $17,820 for marketing. Innkeepers tax is 5 percent of lodging room rates in Porter County, which the Tourism Bureau collects for the County.

Phone upgrades for the County Surveyors office for $2,880, which will be paid out of the Surveyors Perpetual Fund, not General Fund money. Surveyor Kevin Breitzke said that his phone system is six years old.




Posted 2/5/2014