Chesterton Tribune

 

 

County Council moves toward endowment for hospital funds

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Council showed it’s ready to get moving on two subjects that have been in limbo for months.

Along with scheduling a special meeting next week to make a preliminary determination of whether Porter Regional Hospital is in compliance with its 10-year tax abatement (see related story), the Council on Wednesday voted 7-0 to create a new charitable non-profit community foundation with the intent of investing Porter Memorial Hospital sale proceeds.

Now that the Council has voted to create its own controlled endowment, the County Commissioners will have to determine whether or not to go along.

County officials have looked at placing the money with a community foundation which would provide a higher rate of return than current investment funds. The interest generated would purportedly be used to close the gaps in the County’s general fund budget.

In order for any of the $159 million in PMH sale proceeds to be touched, both boards must give their unanimous support according to a stipulation in the County’s ordinances.

“We have to be cohesive as the Commissioners and the Council. They (Commissioners) have to act on it as well,” said Council Vice-President Karen Conover, R-3rd.

County Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, pointed out it was the Commissioners who first called on the Council to consider placing the funds into an endowment. “We’ve waited long enough. It’s my belief that we need to move forward on this.”

The Council received a total of five responses from a Request for Information seeking companies which could help set up a community foundation, two from community foundations and three from financial advisors.

Members said they would look at the responses but Council attorney Scott McClure said he will start the paperwork on the foundation even before the Commissioners give their vote.

All Council members emphasized the need to move forward.

“We’re bleeding money by not getting this money invested. We’ve got to roll,” Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said. The County has the option of waiting to see if the state will allow county government’s better investment options but Whitten said that is doubtful.

“It has been too long. Way too long,” echoed Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large.

The Council had been given a memo earlier this year by Indianapolis law firm Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman on the options it has on investing the sale proceeds. Another option the County had been considering was investing with the existing Porter County Community Foundation. However, the Council would have limited control over how the proceeds are invested, while by having their own Foundation the County could have complete oversight.

“To me, it comes to accountability. Handing it over to another foundation where we don’t have appointments, I’m not okay with that,” said Rivas. With its own foundation, the County could appoint a board of directors.

Whitten said the action to create a foundation does not preclude the Council from investing in existing foundations. “We need to have all our options on the table,” he said.

Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, said the Commissioners may not fully agree with the Council’s decision but nothing will get accomplished unless action is taken.

During its business portion, the Council voted unanimously for a $10,000 additional in its own budget to pay for the services Hall Render has provided.

 

Posted 5/29/2014