Chesterton Tribune

Biggs and Polarek push for Porter County fiscal plan

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The two newest members of the county council showed clear frustration during Monday’s budget hearing with the county commissioners.

Both Jim Biggs, who is new to the council but served as a county commissioner in the 90s, and Jim Polarek expressed their frustration with the lack of definite direction for the county financially. They acknowledged that a list of capital projects and need for recurring income that commissioner presented Monday night touched on important issues.

But they say it’s not enough to just mention the issues anymore.

“I’m not saying any idea that (Evans) has is a bad idea,” Biggs said. “My question is how are we going to pay for it all. We need to make a list, attach a dollar figure and determine where that money is going to come from.”

One of Polarek’s main goals since his campaign has been to change the way county government has been run, but he is seeing more of the same now.

He believes the problem is that the government has become too reactionary instead of being proactive in taking care of problems. A comprehensive master plan wouldn’t eliminate the need to react to unexpected issues that arise, but would provide a solid platform from which to proceed.

“This just continues on what has been pushed in the county for years,” Polarek said.

Biggs’ concern is that the commissioners have done certain things in the past without consulting with the council about the financial ramifications. He mentioned the consolidation of the county’s dispatching to include large municipalities like Portage and Valparaiso without compensation and the conversion of the animal shelter to “no-kill” as two things the council had no input on.

Both occurred before Evans was commissioner president, but have added large expenses to the county’s fund and created problems.

“I like the idea of all the dispatching under one roof, but improper planning led to a $2.2 million deficit,” Biggs said. “The 911 budget falls under the commissioners, but when the cost of the program goes above the surcharge tax they have to come to us for money. There is just a culture of being reactionary and not being proactive. Things just aren’t getting addressed until they break.”

Evans doesn’t dispute the need for a plan for the county to move forward, but he wants the commissioners and council to work together to create it.

“This is not something for me to do alone,” Evans said during the meeting. “The council is the fiscal arm of government; we need to work together to get this done.”

“I am really looking forward to that meeting,” Whitten said as the hearing closed.



Posted 10/4/2011