Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Evans wants to research alternatives for hospital fund investments

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Board of Commissioners agreed to keep moving forward on investing the sale principal of Porter Memorial Hospital by favoring the County Council’s decision to set up a community endowment foundation.

On a motion by Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, the Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to support the Council’s decision.

However, Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, believes it prudent to continue exploring what opportunities may be available to the County. He said there is good chance state lawmakers will pass new legislation next year allowing counties to invest long term with a high rate of return.

Before Tuesday’s Commissioner meeting, Evans wrote to the Council saying that a report earlier this year by Hall-Render of Indianapolis adequately outlined a number of options the County has for potential investment strategies.

However, “it did not address the potential of legislation that would expand a local governmental body’s investment authority to include longer term investments, and/or a wider array of investment vehicles,” Evans said.

Evans suggested that County officials be put in contact with attorney Brian Burdick of Barnes and Thornburg LLP, the same attorney responsible for drafting the state’s Major Moves legislation years ago when Indiana sold the Toll Road. The legislation opened the door for the state’s long-term investment options and the chance to provide “a significantly higher return,” Evans said.

Burdick, who serves as general counsel to the Indiana County Treasurer’s Association and the Indiana Bond Bank, has extensive experience representing both public and private clients, counseling them on public contracting and bidding. He has also managed the state’s $2.5 billion portfolio, Evans said.

Evans called on the Council and Commissioners to hear Burdick on the topic of legislation that could provide Porter County with investment options similar to Major Moves and he suggested a joint meeting later in the month.

“I just want people not to think that we are forgetting about this issue and we want to make sure it continues to move forward.,” Evans said.

The letter also makes clear that Evans does not intend to supersede the Council’s action to create a foundation. Evans said that he wrote the letter to promote cooperation between the Council and the Commissioners.

“The Council should continue its work to establish said foundation. Instead, it is simply to assure that we have done thorough due diligence in examining all options available to us,” he said.

Part of the $159 million in hospital sale proceeds could go to the foundation while some could be invested elsewhere, Evans said. From his discussions with Burdick, Evans said he is confident there will be legislation introduced next year to expand investment options.

“I trust people to not think that we are forgetting about this issue and that we want to make sure that it continues to move forward,” he said.

The Council and Commissioners met with Hall-Render in March, evaluating which strategy could provide the higher interest to replenish lost funds in the County’s coffers.

The Council in May voted 7-0 to create a new charitable community foundation so the County can have access to the investment if it so desires. It has received a total of five responses from community foundations and financial investment firms that could assist in creating a strategy for the new foundation.

At that meeting, Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, commented that creating a foundation should not preclude the county from exploring other avenues. “We need to have all our options on the table,” he said.

According to a mutual agreement within the County’s ordinances, unanimous approval from both the Commissioners and County Council is required to invest or access the sale principal.

County Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, who was present at the meeting Tuesday said she is in favor of Evans’ statement but feels it’s urgent that the two bodies do not stall action in getting investments underway.

 

 

Posted 7/2/2014