A particularly short Porter County Commissioners meeting closed Tuesday with
a special request from Commissioner President John Evans, R-North.
He said that “seven years is long enough” and he wants to see the sale money
from Porter Memorial Hospital be put to good use instead of having it “sit
idly and not have it working for us.”
Evans asked the County Council’s administrative assistant to send word to
the members that a joint meeting will be held Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 6 p.m.
inviting them and all “interested parties” to join in a discussion of
setting up a protected endowment that could be a big part of overcoming the
County’s current financial hurdles.
One matter Evans wants the two boards to decide is how much of the sale
principal would go into the endowment. If $100 million is placed in the
endowment, he said it could generate up to $5 million annually to make up
some of the holes to the General Fund budget. The original amount would
remain intact, he continued.
The principal from the sale amounts to roughly $160 million while the
interest generated comes to more than $11 million, according to the County
For a while, County officials have sought ways to gain a higher rate of
interest for the sale money. Treasurer Mike Bucko has said it could be a few
years or more before interest rates bounce back from their slump.
Since the endowment will be invested in perpetuity, it has a chance of
gaining more interest than other investment accounts.
With the interest, the County could reduce the County’s annual budget by $2
million to $3 million, Evans estimated, as it would supply the funds
traditionally given to non-profit service agencies. For the past two years,
$270,000 has been earmarked for the Council on Aging, Opportunity
Enterprises, and Family and Youth Services Bureau, funds which have come
from interest earned off the hospital sale principal.
“As we all know by now,” Evans said, the county’s ordinances mandate that
tapping the sale principal fund requires a unanimous vote from both the
board of commissioners and the County Council (only majority votes are
required to dip into the fund holding the interest made off the hospital
sale). However, the Commissioners could write a new ordinance superseding
that in order to gain command of the funds to create the endowment.
County elected officials for years have circulated different suggestions on
how the money could be used, Evans continued, but have yet to put anything
“The time for conversation has passed. The time to do something is here,” he
Officials will deliberate how the hospital money should be administered
after the presentation portion of the Aug. 6 meeting.
The County agreed to sell the hospital to the Tennessee-based Community
Health Systems in April 2007. Officials agreed to a five-year restriction on
the hospital sale proceeds fund which became available after Porter Regional
Hospital opened its doors last August.
Council president Bob Poparad (D-At-Large) told the Tribune today he
looks forward to hearing the presentation and will keep an open mind about
use of the endowment.
Also, Sheriff Dave Lain announced the contract with Correct Care Systems Š
the firm he recommended as the new medical provider for the county jail Š is
not quite ready for approval by the Commissioners, but will be soon.
Lain said expects to be ready by the Commissioners’ July 2 meeting.
The Commissioners unanimously approved Lain’s request for upgrades to the
Sheriff’s Department commercial broadband system for $485 a month with the
Northwest Indiana Telephone Company (NITCO).
Lain said this would bring the department in line with state recommendations
for broadband and will improve use of mobile data units for police vehicles.
New health department site
In other business, the commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding
with Porter Health Systems to run a fiber optics cable between the Portage
Hospital and the adjacent former physician office that has been leased as
the new satellite location for the County Health Department.
At the request of ITS Director Sharron Lippens, a cable will be purchased
for $8,665 from Martell Electrics LLC in South Bend with CCD funds.
Lippens said the set-up at the new site is “about completed.” A lease
between the County and Porter Health started on June 1 for $1,521 per month
after moving the health department out of the North County Complex on
On a somewhat similar note, County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, said
she has been working with the ITS department on the final stages of the new
county website which she said is expected to be launched on July 11.
The new features will direct visitors where to go with questions they have
right on the home page, Adams said. Department heads will be able take care
of their own pages and post information at their will. There will also be a
portal where citizens can submit their concerns and get answers. “We want it
to be as easy as possible,” Adams said.
Adams said more information about the website will be coming in a press