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
“(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
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.
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
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.
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.
the situation because you are creating more point sources of pollution,”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Regarding the bond
approved for the Commissioners’ plan for capital project improvements, more
information will appear in Thursday’s edition of the Chesterton Tribune.