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
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.
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,
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.