The Porter County
Redevelopment Commission Thursday gave the City of Valparaiso its blessing
to efforts to bring a high-speed passenger rail service to Porter County.
RDC member and
County Plan Commission Director Robert Thompson said the City is not asking
for the County RDC to help with funding for an environmental impact study,
which would be required before implementation of the rail can begin, but for
a word of endorsement so they can say the Commission supports the project
members of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA) had
asked the Porter County Council in July to consider giving $20,000 in public
funds to fulfill its share needed for the impact study, but were turned down
due to a lack of available funds.
NIPRA officials had
said the rail system would be constructed on the existing Chicago, Ft. Wayne
Eastern Line, on a 300-mile track with Chicago and Columbus, Ohio as its end
points, traveling at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour.
Plans show the line
would have a stop in Valparaiso and move through the county, south of
Duneland. Valparaiso City Government has committed $50,000 towards’ Porter
County’s share of $70,000.
It would be a 40
minute ride from Valparaiso to Chicago and 3 hours and 20 minutes to
Columbus, the NIPRA said.
“I think it’s a
good idea,” Thompson said.
The RDC voted 3-0
to send their approval to Valparaiso City Administrator Bill Oeding. Voting
were President Ric Frataccia, Vice-President David Burrus and Thompson.
Absent from the meeting were members Jim Polarek and Jeremy Rivas.
In other business,
Thompson said a joint group consisting of himself, Airport Director Kyle
Kuebler and Valparaiso RDC members have started talking about rezoning areas
around the Porter County Regional Airport.
The Airport Overlay
District is within unincorporated Porter County and abuts the Valparaiso
City limits. The area was initially eyed as the County’s first TIF district,
but now collaboration is being sought with the city to decide what
redevelopment methods can strengthen the airport most.
happening. I knew it would if we just waited long enough,” said Frataccia
who earlier this year remarked the efforts were dragging on.
Burrus pushed for
the RDC to make an effort to communicate with municipalities throughout the
county on ways to work together on projects. He advocated looking at models
used by successful County RDCs to find “approaches that we can make progress
“There has to be
some kind of positive things we can do that goes beyond TIF districts,” said
Burrus. Both Frataccia and Thompson agreed.
Frataccia said the
RDC has to determine a structure it can operate on. “What is our target?
Where are we going?” he said.
Auditor Vicki Urbanik said the fund has been set up for the RDC to start
collecting economic development fees from the Porter Regional Hospital’s
According to the
abatement agreement between the County Council and the hospital, the
hospital is to give the RDC 10 percent of the taxes abated each year with a
maximum of $100,000.
Urbanik said that
the Indiana Association of Counties informed the County Council earlier this
week that in the state budget bill, for-profit hospitals will get a 50
percent tax break on real and personal property and named Porter Regional
Hospital as one of the properties.
Thompson said he
heard that State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, is working to get the
language, as the bill was originally intended to affect only two hospitals
The RDC, which now
meets quarterly, will meet next on July 16.