Chesterton Tribune

County adopts five year ambulance contract with Porter Health Systems

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County is good to go for another five years of ambulance service.

Services will continue to be provided by Porter Health Systems which has been the county’s choice provider since 1988.

Despite a shaky start to contract renegotiations, the commissioners peacefully signed on with the company Tuesday to operate its ambulances at the price levels previously mentioned during the county councils budget hearings last month. The county has agreed to give the hospital $650,000 the first and second years of the plan, followed by increments of $750,000 for years three and four, and $1 million for the fifth and final year.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said he is proud of the fact the deal will save the county $1.2 million overall. The amount is the difference between what the hospital was originally asking for in the long run, $1 million per year ($ 1 million x5 = $5 million), and what was finally agreed upon ($650,000 x2 + $750,000 x2 + $1 million = $3.8 million).

When the hospital representatives approached the commissioners in August, the hospital made the request for the county to restore the subsidy to $1 million or what was originally contracted in 2003 before the bankruptcy of Bethlehem Steel Co. The subsidy had been reduced to $500,000.

Certain members of the Porter County Council like Jeremy Rivas and Jim Polarek implored the county to consider other options that would have involved township or municipality emergency response services. Council member Jim Biggs questioned why the hospital wanted to raise the subsidy while ambulance calls reportedly decreased in the past few years, while the commissioners felt it was the their responsibility to approve the contracts.

Although some were reluctant, all seven members of the council voted unanimously in October to continue with Porter hospital providing an annual subsidy that would come directly out of sale proceeds of Porter hospital which has a base of roughly $160 million. This cleared the way for the commissioners to renew the contracts which expire at the end of this year.

“This has been a long deal and I am really glad the way it worked out,” said Evans. “It’s really a win-win-win for everyone in Porter County to have service like this available.”

Sitting before the commissioners were Porter CEO Jonathan Nalli and Ambulance Service Director Gary Atherton who were happy with the terms of the contract.

“We are extraordinarily pleased with this,” he said. “We look forward to providing the service for years and years to come to the people of Porter County.”

Two other contracts were also approved for a one-year agreement with the City of Portage and Portage Twp. The City of Portage has aided the county to provide service to its outlying areas such as Ogden Dunes. The contract is for $175,000 for the city.

A new part of the contracts will also give Portage Twp. a yearly stipend of $40,000 for the South Haven Fire Department that provides backup service for Portage. The increase of $40,000 from $25,000 is so Portage will no longer need to pay funds to South Haven.

Commissioners to hold

certificate sale early 2012

Three weeks after the county held its 2011 tax sale, the commissioners have decided they will follow up with a tax certificate sale of their own. This will be the first sale of its kind since 2003, according to county attorney Gwenn Rinkenberger.

In a certificate sale, the commissioners can reduce the price of delinquent tax liens to make them more desirable for potential buyers.

SRI Inc. will be contracted to help conduct the sale, the same company hired to run the tax sale on Oct. 26.

SRI Client Service Director Glen Luedtke said there are 357 property liens from the sale that have not been purchased and could win the county back up to $4.6 million in uncollected taxes that would be put back on the tax rolls.

The county has netted $3.64 million so far this year from owners and buyers of the tax liens, $1.37 million of that directly from the tax sale which sold 179 liens.

Luedtke said the certificates sold at the upcoming commissioners’ sale also have a shorter redemption period. While delinquent property owners have exactly one year to redeem a lien buyer, those purchased at the commissioner’s sale have only 120 days.

Luedtke also recommended the commissioners hold a two-week sale on the internet prior to having a live sale later on. He said this method has proved successful in other counties.

The commissioners contracted to have the internet sale and a live sale with the suggested starting date of Feb. 6 next year.

To participate in the internet sale, purchasers must register on the SRI web site, Luedtke said.

The charge for SRI to hold the sale depends on the number of certificates purchased. From the 179 liens sold at the Oct. 26 tax sale, SRI was paid $16,720 for its services.

Opera House to use $250,000 from CEDIT

Opera House Business Director Brian Schafer won support from the commissioners to forge ahead with structural renovations at the 118-year old facility using county economic development income tax dollars.

The commissioner approved $250,000 from CEDIT funds which Schafer hopes the county council will approve at its meeting next week. The amount stems from the results of a needs assessment study conducted by DLZ Indiana who the commissioners hired to evaluate specific county buildings in need of repairs.

Schafer sought the CEDIT funding so the refurbishments would not have to be paid out of the county’s general fund.

If the CEDIT funds are approved, this will give the Opera House the flexibility in its budget to hire a marketing and group sales director, a house manager and a bookkeeper which will be split with the county expo center.

The council initially approved the positions but later axed them in the final 2012 budget readings when funding for all budgets was tightened.

Schafer has said the salaries for the new workers would only be a one-time expense for the county, anticipating the Opera House will become self-sufficient.

Knoblock hospitalized

Missing from Tuesday’s meeting was South Porter County Commissioner Carole Knoblock who suffered an injury while at home on Monday. She is currently being treated at Porter Hospital for a broken hip.

Evans said Knoblock is expected to recover soon and be back to public service within a few weeks time.

 

 

Posted 11/16/2011