It’s back to work
for crews helping Porter County resolve drainage and flooding issues as the
County Council allocated more than $486,000 in county economic development
income tax towards projects this year.
The funding had
previously been approved by the Council at their 2015 budget hearings but
needed to be reallocated to pay new consultants. Twin Creeks Conservancy
District will be the vendor for Phase 1 of the storm sewer rehabilitation
project in South Haven.
alleviation work on a smaller scale will be done near the Porter County
Highway Dept. facility in Center Twp., said Drainage Board president Dave
Burrus. That project will be headed by Sentowski Brothers Excavating.
South Haven, which
is the largest unincorporated community in Porter County, experienced major
flooding after nearly a foot of torrential rains swept through last August.
“It’s affected a
lot of lives,” said Council vice-president Karen Conover, R-3rd.
attorney for Twin Creeks Conservancy District, noted that the Countywide
drainage study by DLZ Indiana in 2010 listed South Haven as being the worst
site for flooding and estimated remediation would take more than $17 million
“This is the
beginning. You have to start somewhere,” he said.
Council member Jim
Biggs, R-1st, asked Burrus if the funding will be enough for the year.
Burrus said it should be enough for the first phase and he expects the work
to wrap this year.
“package” will take several years, Burrus added. Trying to do the project in
one big effort “would be a disaster” and phasing is a wiser direction, he
In another budget
matter, the County Council appropriated $350,000 to the Local Roads and
Streets fund after a snafu in the Motor Vehicle High fund.
originally had been advertised in the MVH fund after being appropriated by
the state auditor’s office and approved by the Department of Local
Government Finance, but the amount was reduced to zero by the State Board of
Accounts afterward, County Highway Superintendent David James said.
James said when he
investigated the matter, he was told by the SBA that the “entities don’t
talk to each other” but the money from the MVH fund could be used for the
same purposes in the LRS fund, except for payroll.
approved the additional $350,000 to LRS and other restorations in the
Cumulative Bridge Fund by a vote of 6-0.
Also, the Council
approved various salary change requests as long as department heads didn’t
increase their budgets. Those included the Health Department, the Auditor’s
Office, the Sheriff’s Police and Emergency Management Agency.
Dan Whitten, D-at large, said that whenever there is a request for a change
in salary, he will request that someone from that department be prepared to
answer questions the Council may have.
Whitten and Council
Attorney Scott McClure said they, along with Council members Robert Poparad,
D-at large, and Sylvia Graham, D-at large, met with the appointees of the
new advisory committee for the County’s Community Endowment Foundation and
updated them on the current legislation moving downstate that would give
counties like Porter more ways to invest proceeds from the sale of an asset.
The committee will
continue to move forward with formulating an investment policy instead of
waiting on the bill, Whitten added, to start making some return and help
close the county’s budget gap.
“I don’t think we
have enough money (in our budget) to expand our operations right now,”
If the legislation
does pass, asked Council member Mike Jessen, R-4th, how should the Council
be prepared to address organizations coming to the County asking for use or
loan of the foundation money?
Whitten said that
discussions between the Council and Commissioners will be required to
address those concerns.
In point person
reports, which are now addressed at each Council meeting, Biggs said the
Commissioners voted last week on adopting a reference-based option health
insurance plan that will provide a savings for the County.
“I wish it well. I
hope it works. It’s moving forward,” Biggs said.
How much of a
savings will be something only time will tell. The Council approved the
Commissioner’s employee insurance budget at $9 million this year when the
costs in 2014 were over $12 million.
“The success will
be how close it will get to that $9 million,” Jessen commented.
member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said he and Conover will be meeting with
Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, this week to continue discussing
plans about the new animal shelter building whose location is planned near
the Expo Center on Ind. 49.