Chesterton Tribune

2-1 vote: Commissioners favor helping Chesterton pay for utility lines south along 49

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The Porter County Commission-ers voted 2-1 Tuesday to endorse a partnership sought by the Chester-ton Town Council to extend utility lines outside of town limits.

Town Council and redevelopment commission member Jeff Trout lead a discussion continued from November about extending water, sewer and fiber optic lines along the Ind. 49 corridor.

Originally, the town said the county could contribute $2 million in county CEDIT money to a $6 million project, but with some recent adjustments, Trout estimates the county will only need to put up $900,000 to continue the utilities south of the Chesterton border past the east side of the hospital.

The Chesterton town limit is CR 900N near the CSX railroad. The additional land to be served in the unincorporated area would be approximately 400 acres.

Trout said the plan does not include the new Porter hospital itself since it has chosen Damon Run Conservancy District as its utility provider. At the request of Portage Mayor James Snyder, the proposal does not include the adjacent 100-acre St. Andrews development which will also be served by the by Damon Run, Trout said.

The project has been lauded by Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas, but the city has not yet shown interest in continuing the utility corridor past U.S. 6.

Trout said Chesterton has spent four years fleshing out the plan, shortly after Porter announced they would build their new hospital at the Ind. 49 and U.S. 6 intersection.

It was easy to assume more companies would be driven to the area, Trout said, and to accommodate them, the “tools” need to be in place.

“Without utilities, the jobs don’t come, can’t come,” he said.

Trout asked the commissioners to consider the matter quickly so the Town of Chesterton could get to work by summer collecting bids, with or without the county.

County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, who put the proposal on the agenda, said the commissioners would need to seek the $900,000 needed from the county council. He plans to approach the council jointly with the town on March 27.

Public Hearing

Evans also ordered a public hearing before the council meets.

Evans commented the county has done similar projects for towns in the past such as a drainage project for the town of Kouts.

“This is something that we should be looking at and help the municipalities,” he said. “I think it’s something that county government is charged to do.”

Evans approved the measure with fellow Republican Commissioner Nancy Adams, who represents the county’s center district.

Dissenting was Commissioner Carole Knoblock, D-South, who felt it unfair to push ahead a major development project without consulting the existing residents and businesses. She also said “no” for similar reasons to a related item on Tuesday where the county redevelopment commission could incorporate a TIF district around the hospital site (see related story).

Trout said the hospital has already inspired 180 “real, good-paying jobs” to Chesterton with the St. Anthony Health and Emergency Center and the new assisted living facility on Dickinson Road.

“It’s a direct result of the hospital’s $280 million investment in our county,” said Trout, who believes the future growth will benefit everyone involved.

He said the county can still seek a $2.7 million grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to help with the project.



Posted 2/22/2012