Chesterton Tribune



County blasts Portage for misleading information about Foundation

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Comments made by Portage City elected officials have stirred up ire on the Porter County Council and the County Board of Commissioners regarding the new foundation endowment fund established for investing the proceeds from the sale of the county’s Porter Memorial Hospital.

The Council and Commissioners met jointly Tuesday for their quarterly meetings on the Foundation. The two make up the Foundation’s board of trustees.

Quickly approving the three firms to serve as their non-voting advisors -- 1st Source Bank of Valparaiso, Peoples Bank of Munster, and Horizon Bank of Michigan City -- board members expressed a need to counter claims made by Portage Mayor James Snyder and some City Council members.

“It’s all misleading and it’s all wrong,” County Council Dan Whitten, D-at large, said. “We have taken a lot of heat from a frame of mind that is just completely backward.”

While the Council and Commissioners provided no direct quotations of what has been said, Whitten said it has been insinuated that the County is “sitting with $200 million under a rock somewhere” and is not willing to share it with cash strapped municipalities.

“I’d like to know where the other $50 million is,” said Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, pointing out the total in hospital sale proceeds available for investment is closer to $150 million.

Whitten said the accusation that the County is not lending money is untrue because the total of hospital money that has been borrowed from the County, reported by County Treasurer Michelle Clancy, is currently $13,220,000, with $2.975 million lent to the City of Portage.

Other amounts are $1.135 million to be paid back by the Town of Chesterton, and $9.11 million to be paid back by Valparaiso Schools, according to the County Treasurer’s office.

The money is due to be paid back to the County from this year until 2019 when it will be available for the County to invest into the foundation.

Whitten said he plans to send out a “very informative” press release and believes the Council and Commissioners deserve credit for the thought and preparation that has been put into investing the hospital funds so that they can achieve the biggest return possible and make Porter County prosperous.

Other County officials speculate the negative accusations can be blamed on election year politics.

“This is really childish,” said Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, who was also expressed annoyance at the comments.

Council member Karen Conover, R-3rd, said the Foundation money is “for everyone in Porter County.” She and Council member Robert Poparad, D-at large, hope the County’s efforts can be respected.

“We need to get the word out. We have changed the landscape of this county for my grandchildren,” Poparad said.

A call to Mayor Snyder for comment was not returned this morning.

The next joint meeting for the Foundation will be in July.



Posted 4/6/2016




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