Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

County Council to meet Friday on possible RDA appeal

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Council has announced it will hold a special meeting at 5:00 p.m. on Friday to discuss pending litigation regarding whether it will decide to appeal last week’s ruling that the county does not have the legal grounds to withdraw from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

Several council members expressed disappointment in Jasper County Circuit Court Judge John Potter’s ruling last week against the council which sought a legal declaration since filing at lawsuit on Aug. 28, 2009. The council has said the legislation that forced them into the RDA is “unconstitutional” since it voted 4-3 to leave the RDA a year ago. Potter ruled the 2005 legislation to create the RDA had already included Porter County as a member.

County Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said in a statement last week that he is “willing to lead” what he calls a “revolution” and feels an appeal is needed. Whitten said the fact remains that there are no assurances that the county’s investment in the RDA would be beneficial to the county.

Whitten also stated the investment has cost Porter County much more than the RDA has returned, despite the RDA’s claim that $12.2 million has been received from the county and $17.2 million has been returned.

“Anyone who says otherwise is simply misleading or misled,” said Whitten.

Whitten said the issue of raising the County Economic Development Income Tax goes beyond the RDA. He said the state has tried to impose other taxes on Porter County, but the council has been able to ward off such efforts. The council voted in 2005 to raise the CEDIT tax 0.25 percent in order to pay the RDA its $3.5 million in membership dues.

The council may also decide on Friday, depending on whether a consensus to appeal is reached, to choose a new law firm to represent the council in subsequent proceedings which may save the county additional money. The county to date has retained the Hall Render firm of Indianapolis for its legal arguments against the RDA and has paid the firm about $65,000 in service fees.

Council member Rita Stevenson, D-2nd, told the Tribune earlier this week the costs for appeal proceedings will be much lower since the research work portion of the legal process has already been done.

Potter also ruled that the countymust continue paying its annual dues to the RDA and turn over all the money that had been kept in an interest-bearing escrow account by the county auditor and treasurer under a partial settlement agreement.

The court ordered the county to forward the money by May 1. County Attorney Gwenn Rinkenberger said if the county files a notice of appeal, it may “freeze” everything in the order including the payments to the RDA until the Indiana Court of Appeals issues a ruling.

Rinkenberger said she believes the county would be able to maintain their status quo if an appeal is filed but nothing is certain until the council reaches a decision and discusses matters with attorneys.

The council will also be meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Friday in a closed executive session before the public meeting at 5:00. The meeting will be held at the Porter County Administration Center (155 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso) in Suite 205.

 

Posted 4/14/2010

 

 

 

 

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