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Officials cooperate to back foundation to invest hospital proceeds

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Board of Commissioner and County Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, have begun setting the framework for the County’s own private charitable foundation, which should see bigger returns on investment of the money from the sale of the county owned Porter Memorial Hospital.

Since any action to use the $159 million sale principal would require unanimous votes from the County Council and the Commissioners, the two bodies have jointly discussed options for investment with the help of Indianapolis law firm Hall Render.

The Commissioners earlier this month supported the Council’s decision to create a foundation that the County could control.

Whitten said the Council’s attorney Scott McClure is getting the paperwork together to establish a foundation. Following that, input will be gathered on formulating an investment policy.

“It’s going to be a challenge. Getting ten people to agree unanimously will be a struggle,” Whitten said.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, encouraged the cooperation of his colleagues on moving the investments along, as ideas have circulated for years now on how to use the funds.

“We have to continue to do this. We can’t keep kicking that can on down the road,” said Evans.

With the effect of the state imposed tax caps, the County Council has already been using interest generated by the sale fund to offset budget expenses formerly paid out of the General Fund, like E-911 and annual commitments to community non-profit groups.

Whitten said that the decision to proceed with developing a new community foundation does not mean other options are precluded, like placing part of the hospital sale proceeds into the existing Porter County Community Foundation or others.

"There are other options out there. Personally, I think we need to explore all of them,” said Whitten.

In a letter addressed to both the Commissioners and Council, Evans implored they watch what the Indiana General Assembly may do next year to give counties new opportunities to make long-term investments and called for a joint meeting to hear attorney Brian Burdick, of Barnes and Thornburg of Indianapolis, on what options may be available.

The meeting has been scheduled for this Monday, July 21, at 5:30 p.m., in the Commissioners’ Chambers.

Evans said Burdick was involved in helping the state craft legislation to create invest options using the Major Moves money from the sale of the Indiana Toll Road. Evans sees the County’s situation as similar to that, just on a smaller scale.

Burdick also at one time managed the state’s $2.5 billion investment portfolio.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Evans said.

In addition to the investment policy, Whitten said there will need to be a consensus on forming a board of directors for the new foundation. Both he and Evans agreed those appointed should not be elected officials themselves. “We need to try to get as far away from government as we can get,” Whitten said.

Evans said appointees should have financial management experience. “We have to have people who know what they are doing,” he said.

The board should also have an odd number of members, Whitten said, and it should be bipartisan, ideas with which the Commissioners concurred.

Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, said she is happy to see that both bodies are already in harmony with many aspects regarding the investment.

 

Posted 7/16/2014