Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter County OKs $20M bond for drainage

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Council approved two bond issues on Tuesday requested by the Board of County Commissioners for projects of up to $50 million total -- $20 million for drainage improvements and $30 million for capital projects.

Both requests won unanimous votes from the Council.

Taking up the bond request for drainage projects first, the Council heard County Attorney Scott McClure explain that the County’s Stormwater User Fee collected from property owners gives the Stormwater Management Board the ability to bond and has been discussed since the board was created about two years ago to expedite improvements.

“(The fee) allows us to go out and do a bond of this size,” he said. “This $20 million is a good start. It gets us there.”

Most of the $20 million will be used primarily within the Twin Lakes Conservancy District, which McClure said includes “more than just South Haven” and the Salt Creek Commons area in Union Twp. About $5 million will be retained to do other major projects in other parts of the county, he added.

Even with the bond, the County will still have over $1 million each year to devote for stormwater management work like clearing ditches and repairing culverts, McClure said. The stormwater fee generates a revenue of roughly $3 million per year.

County Council President Mike Jessen, R-4th, read into the record a letter from Twin Creeks Conservancy District board giving its support for a partnership with the County Stormwater Management Board to get these projects done.

Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, at last week’s Commissioners meeting said his board had been in discussions with Twin Creeks for a few years now about a partnership that will give the County access to fix the failing infrastructure.

Public comments

The Council allowed members of the public to speak on the bond issue ordinance prior to the vote. The first to comment was Ed Gutt, of Liberty Twp., who attended the meeting with other members of the Woodville Foundation. Gutt asked who in the Twin Creeks Conservancy District would help pay for the bond and who the bond would be sold to.

McClure said he estimates the residents in the conservancy district would pay about $450,000 in stormwater fees, paying the same amount as everyone else in the unincorporated areas. Bond Counsel attorney James Shanahan said the entire bond will be sold at one sale as opposed to phases and no one has purchased the bonds yet. They will be sold through competitive sale to the lowest bidder, Shanahan said.

Liberty Twp. resident and environmentalist Herb Read said he opposes use of the stormwater fee for anything other than improving the quality of the water, contending it would be against the law, and that putting more infrastructure in would have an adverse effect on water quality.

“You’re worsening the situation because you are creating more point sources of pollution,” Read said.

Salt Creek Commons resident Theresa Dixon said users residing in the Twin Creeks Conservancy District have been paying fees for 20 years and “zero” has been down. She said she opposes the partnership and argued the conservancy district should be eliminated.

Liberty Twp. resident and Woodville Foundation member Sandra Johnson said South Haven residents “deserve credit for the patience they have” and is happy to see something being done, but asked the County to hold off on construction until the spring so there won’t be any more road blockages.

“We’ve had so much construction this summer. I was hoping you would give us a little bit of a breather,” Johnson said.

Responses

McClure said the conservancy district is not getting paid to fix the problems or given any special consideration. It will be the County’s charge to make the improvements and maintain the area afterwards.

McClure disagreed with Read’s comment about the law restricting the stormwater user fees only to treat water quality. The fees can go towards fixing structural problems related to stormwater, he said.

As far as construction schedules, McClure said roads would not be closed and the work would be phased over a few years.

Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, asked if the residents in Twin Creeks would be charged a fee to the conservancy district and another to the County. McClure said each parcel will pay as if they were not in a conservancy district to the County while Twin Creeks would charge some fees to remain in existence but they have offered to partner with the County on the maintenance.

Commissioners Jim Biggs, R-North, and Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, said the County does not have the authority to dissolve the conservancy district. That would be the authority of its board.

A long time coming

Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, whose district contains the Twin Creeks area, praised the endeavor saying “this is a long time coming.”

“I know you guys worked very hard on getting this partnership,” he told the commissioners. Rivas is on the Stormwater Advisory Board and will be involved in planning the work.

Council member Karen Conover, R-3rd, recalled hearing how major improvements were needed for South Haven when the countywide drainage study was completed seven years ago. “We’re finally there,” she said.

Making the motion to approve the bond, Council member Dan Whitten, D-at large, said that now the County has a stormwater fee, “we might as well put it to good use.”

Whitten made a motion to suspend the rules for a second reading on the ordinance, which was also met with unanimous approval.

Capital Projects bond

Regarding the bond approved for the Commissioners’ plan for capital project improvements, more information will appear in Thursday’s edition of the Chesterton Tribune.

 

Posted 8/23/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

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