Chesterton Tribune

County hears Chesterton plan for 49 corridor

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Chesterton town officials used Wednesday night’s joint meeting of the Porter County Council and Commissioners to formally propose a partnership on the US 49 Utility Corridor project.

Councilman Jeff Trout, council president Sharon Darnell, town engineer Mark Dell and a team of consultants gave the 10 county officials a presentation on what they believe can be a major economic driver for both Chesterton and county.

The plan is to extend utility services, water, sewers and fiber optics from Chesterton’s borders all the way to US 6 to take advantage of the new hospital location. The proposed utility corridor would serve 950 acres and have the potential to attract both residential and commercial developments and provide high-paying jobs.

“Porter County has a great chance to use the $265 million hospital project for growth,” Trout said. “It’s the largest development project in Porter County since Bethlehem Steel.

“We have something much bigger than Chesterton. If we do this right it is something that can benefit the whole county.”

Chesterton’s proposal was for the county to contribute $2 million in CEDIT funds to the approximately $6 million total for the project. The town has committed $1.2 million and is seeking $2.7 million from the Northwest Indiana RDA.

Commissioner John Evans said he was enthusiastic about the project and has previously publically supported the county getting involved, but he asked if the county would receive money back through tap-on fees and similar sources.

Other council members were interested by the project but shared the concern about receiving tap-on fees to get a return on the investment.

Trout said Chesterton officials wanted to get involved with the county as a partner more than asking for a loan but that the town would be willing to negotiate with the county to make this project a reality. Trout also said he believed that a partnership between the town and county would look better on the grant application to the RDA and give it a better chance of securing the funds.

“Partnership is what we really want,” Trout said. “This can be more effective if we all do this together.”

Because this was Chesterton’s first official proposal to the county, Evans recommended that Trout discuss Chesterton’s plan with Porter County’s Executive Director of Planning Bob Thompson to see if it aligns with the county’s plan and then go forward from that point.

“It’s an opportunity,” county council vice president Jim Biggs said. “There’s no doubt there’s an opportunity. There’s a whole lot of work to be done here though.

“This is a very special area. We need to listen to the planners and the experts, but we also need to listen to the residents and property owners.”

Master plan update

The county’s joint session also heard a presentation from Todd Samuelson of Umbaugh Financial Services about how the county’s comprehensive master plan will be created.

Samuelson, who had already given his presentation to the commissioners at an October meeting, told the council that Umbaugh has been doing financial planning for 60 years and provides extensive knowledge of what types of government funds can be used for certain projects.

Biggs said that what Umbaugh can provide sounds like it will help the county create the plan, but he wants to make sure 99 percent of the decisions come from the county and one percent from the company.

The council also stressed to Samuelson that the major concern was creating additional recurring budget costs, especially with insurance costs soaring and the E911 shortfall unfunded, not coming up with capital for projects.

“We didn’t get to where we are by telling people what to do, we are a teammate,” Samuelson said.

Samuelson said he plans to meet with all the county’s department heads and elected officials to create a list of priorities and that he should be able to return in 60 days with some results.



Posted 11/3/2011