Chesterton Tribune



County to bond for projects as Portage tries for new building

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The Porter County Council gave its final vote on a county bond Tuesday, approving a bond issuance for approximately $30 million for capital improvements to County facilities, before a large crowd of Portage officials, business owners, and residents, who hoped the County would consider a plan for a new building in their city.

Portage Mayor James Snyder was among the attendees as the Council passed a motion 7-0 for second and final reading to adopt a bond process that would allow the County to borrow money for six substantial renovations, one of which is to remodel the 19,540 square-foot North County Complex in Portage

Shortly prior to first reading of the bond issuance last month, Portage officials sent County Council members a report on the cost-benefit analysis for a joined City and County Government Complex on Central Ave. The analysis said the new center could bring more development to Portage’s downtown area and generate higher tax revenues.

The County Commissioners, who drew up the capital improvement projects plan, argued that their plan to add $10 million in improvements and a 15,000 square-foot expansion to the current North County Complex, on Willowcreek Rd., would be more cost-effective.

Prior to the vote Tuesday, Council President Mike Jessen, R-4th, said the Commissioners’ plan isn’t “perfect” but it does address how to fix the County’s most desperate facility and address space needs.

“I’d suggest to not let the illusion of perfection get in the way of progress,” Jessen said.

Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, whose district contains Portage, said that even though he likes the idea of having a building where the County and the City can work together, the County is willing to put $10 million into Portage, one-third of the bond itself.

“The population of Portage is going to benefit,” said Rivas.

Jessen said the Council could not open the meeting up to public comments because the public hearing for the bond issuance was at last month’s first reading of the ordinance. No Portage official spoke at that time.

Admin. Building addition

During the discussion, Council member Dan Whitten, D-at large, asked the Commissioners to explain the change in the plan to use the former jail facility in downtown Valparaiso.

As announced last week, County Attorney Scott McClure said the Commissioners will look to build on to the Administration Building’s courtyard instead of acquiring the former jail because the current owner has rejected the County’s offer to purchase, which was the average of the two appraisals done. The cost of the two options would be roughly the same and the addition to the courtyard would be about 27,000 square feet.

Plans included moving offices for the court and the 911 Center into the Administration Building, McClure added.


The Council adjusted its budget hearing schedule to include an additional night exclusively focused on employee salary increases and additional items.

Whitten said now that the budget adoption is scheduled for Oct. 26, the Council should have more time to consider raise requests. The Council decided it could meet Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 5 p.m.

Foundation earns more

Also on Tuesday, the Council met with the Commissioners as the Porter County Government Nonprofit Charitable Foundation, going over its quarterly report with representatives from investment advisor Capital Cities LLC. The Foundation holds the investment of the Porter Memorial Hospital sale proceeds.

The market continues to perform well, the firm said, and in this quarter ending on June 30, the Foundation saw an investment gain of $3.5 million.

CHS student learns County Government

Council member Andy Bozak, R-1st, introduced a special guest at the meeting -- Chesterton High School Freshman Timothy Wheeler -- who received a round of applause from the Council and the audience.

Bozak said Wheeler was interning for his college and career preparation class and has an interest in politics.






Posted 9/28/2017




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