Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Bridge fund increased by Commissioners

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The Porter County Board of Commissioners voted 2-0 in favor of doubling the tax rate for the County’s Cumulative Bridge Fund from one to two cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Commissioner Vice-President Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, who chaired a special meeting Tuesday in the absence of President Jeff Good, R-Center, said her board has been asked why it’s not using the bridge fund for the $3 million needed to repair three bridges named in the $30 million capital projects plan. The bridge fund has been depleted, she said, and the Commissioners are looking to pay for the three bridges another way. Good had suggested last month bonding against the proceeds from the sale of the Porter Memorial Hospital as one possibility to complete large capital projects.

When those bridges are rebuilt, Blaney said the bridge fund should have time to grow back to where it can be used to maintain and fix other bridges regularly.

“It goes without saying that this type of infrastructure must be maintained. It’s not really a choice,” said Blaney.

According to County Attorney Scott McClure, the two-cent tax rate would help the bridge fund generate nearly $1.5 million annually.

Blaney said the Commissioners recently increased the bridge fund tax rate from half to one cent in 2015. It had been .5 cents for about 30 years prior to that and for a long time was the lowest in the state. At one cent, it is currently the second lowest rate in the state. But, Porter County has more bridges than most other counties in Indiana, she said.

Doubling the rate to two cents would make Porter County about average compared to other counties, Blaney said.

Blaney also said that this rate hike would not cause an increase in taxes because the County’s overall levy will remain the same. “It’s simply a shift of where the dollars are going,” she said.

Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, said the Commissioners have implemented an “aggressive” bridge assessment program in the past few months after moving the engineering department from the Highway Garage to the Department of Development and Stormwater Management.

“It’s let us know the condition of these bridges. There are some that can no longer be ignored, bypassed or overlooked,” he said.

Director of the County’s Development and Stormwater Management Department Robert Thompson said the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration require County governments to inspect their bridges every two years. If a bridge rates below certain criteria, then the agencies require the County to inspect that bridge every year, which means additional costs, Thompson said.

There are 20 out of the 126 bridges in the county that are below the benchmark, according to Thompson. With the capital improvement plan and money from the Community Crossings matching grant from the state, Thompson said he hopes he can upgrade five bridges to where they can be inspected every two years instead of yearly, providing a savings to the County in maintenance costs.

Front Plaza bids

One other matter of business Tuesday, the Commissioners approved seeking bids on the proposed $1 million improvement to the front plaza and entryway at the Porter County Administration Building in downtown Valparaiso.

Bids will be advertised in this newspaper on July 12 and July 19. Bids will be due at the end of business on Aug. 14, and will be opened and reviewed by the Commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 15, McClure said.

Plans for the renovation include a sloped walkway that will be handicap accessible as well as new trees and landscaping.


Posted 7/12/2017





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