By VICKI URBANIK
The Porter County Commissioners have gone on the record --
again -- against any attempt by Lake County to merge the two counties’
In the wake of speculation that another attempt will be made
in this session of the Indiana Legislature to consolidate the Lake and Porter
county tourism agencies, the three commissioners unanimously adopted a
resolution Tuesday opposing such a move. A similar resolution was passed two
years ago during another merger attempt.
As of right now,
there appears to be no proposed bill calling for a consolidation, but County
Commissioner President Robert Harper said the strong feeling at the Porter
County Convention, Recreation and Visitor Commission is that there will be an
attempt made later this session to merge the tourism agencies or create a
regional tourism entity.
Harper said the PCCRVC has been very conservative with
spending its innkeepers tax dollars and that it’s “totally unacceptable” to
think that Porter County’s agency should be melded in with Lake County’s. He
said according to media reports, the Lake County agency has spent its tax
funds on trips and lobbying efforts. “We just don’t spend money that way,” he
Harper also expressed outrage that Porter County officials
find themselves having to spend time and resources “again and again” fighting
Lake County on a possible tourism consolidation.
North Porter County Commissioner John Evans said that if the
two county tourism agencies were merged, Porter County would “lose our voice”
in the larger agency.
“It’s great to have regionalism and work with our neighbors,”
Evans said, but added that the PCCRVC should retain its uniqueness. “I think
we are better off the way we are,” he said.
The commissioners’ resolution, which was also supported by
South County Commissioner Carole Knoblock, who said that the goals of the
PCCRVC and its Lake County counterpart are not the same. “Both counties are
unique in what they offer the tourists,” the resolution says.
If the two bureaus were merged, “simply by the fact that Lake
County has such a larger base, it would soon engulf the (PCCRVC), which would
then lose its voice in the future,” the resolution says.
The resolution also indicated that with a new regional agency
might come “an effort to pass a regional tax, which not only might increase
the amount citizens in Porter County were paying, but would also go into an
agency where they had less say.”
The resolution states that the commissioners oppose any type
of consolidation and that they request that Porter County lawmakers take no
action promoting the move.
Earlier at the commissioner meeting Tuesday, the commissioners
approved the annual distribution of funds from the PCCRVC’s venue funds. For
a number of years, the PCCRVC has been distributing a portion of its budget
to other county establishments.
Under the 2009 agreement presented by PCCRVC attorney Dave
Hollenbeck, the PCCRVC will distribute $89,100. The Porter County Expo
Center, the Memorial Opera House, and the Old Jail Museum will each receive
$17,820. The remainder will go toward the Porter County Parks Department.