Chesterton Tribune

Burrus and Frataccia picked for Porter County redevelopment commission

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A former county commissioner and a former school superintendent, Dave Burrus and Ric Frataccia, will serve on the county’s revamped redevelopment commission after being appointed by the Porter County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

Burrus, who attended the commissioners’ meeting, said he and Frataccia were members of the previous version of the county redevelopment commission which served only in an advisory capacity. The commissioners last month formed the new commission with the statutory powers to seek and receive grants on their own and propose tax increment financing (TIF) in unincorporated areas of the county.

Having served as a south county commissioner and being a leader on other county boards like the Drainage Board, Burrus said he has not directly been involved in creating TIF districts but has observed them and understands their objective. He said when a TIF district is established, there is often a lot of controversy, but he “doesn’t necessarily think there needs to be any.”

TIF districts can be made up to prevent schools from losing property tax revenue, Burrus said, giving as an example a conflict that happened a few years ago between East Porter County Schools and the City of Valparaiso’s Redevelopment Commission over placing a TIF on the east side of Silhavy Road in Washington Twp. The city allowed a portion of TIF revenue to pass on to the schools.

The county’s new commission is an economic redevelopment commission with the power to set a TIF baseline property tax rate. Property taxes under those baselines would go to the county coffers while anything over that baseline would go to the TIF district to fund infrastructure development and improvements, but provisions in state statute allow redevelopment commissions to create revenue pass-throughs.

Furthermore, Burrus believes his fellow appointee Frataccia will seek to protect the interests of county school corporations. Frataccia is a former Union Twp. Schools superintendent and was recently named to lead Portage Schools for the 2012-2013 school year.

“(Frataccia) brings a great deal of knowledge as a school official,” Burrus said. “We’re very fortunate to have him. I think this is an extraordinary good step in the right direction.”

The U.S. 6 corridor surrounding the new Porter hospital was mentioned by John Shepherd as one of the areas that could be used as a TIF district. Porter County Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, expressed concerns at the June 27 council meeting, saying he fears “TIF-ing” the hospital would take money away from local taxing units, like the Duneland School Corporation.

Whitten will serve on the redevelopment commission as will County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North. The County Council will announce its single citizen appointment to the five-member redevelopment commission next week. The commissioners are also to add a non-voting sixth member which would have to a school board member.

Drainage grant fund

In another matter, the commissioners held a first reading and public hearing on an ordinance establishing a grant fund for comprehensive drainage projects.

Burrus, who is the county’s hired consultant for its drainage improvements, said grant funding has been used for two ongoing projects. An Office of Community Rural Affairs (OCRA) grant for a planning study near Lake Eliza in Porter Township was obtained in 2011 and allowed for street improvements there. Another received grant provided funds for the Dunes-Kankakee Trail, Burrus said.

With the new fund, a grant that comes in could be used for specific drainage work. Burrus said the county will receive a $100,000 grant from Lake Michigan Coastal Grants for a number of drainage projects connected to Lake Michigan.

The commissioners approved the first reading 3-0 for the grant fund. A second reading will be held Aug. 4.

More drainage matters included a 3-0 vote to help Arbor Lakes developers pay for half of the cost to install a sewer line running across Summer Hill and the Arbor Lakes subdivisions located behind Shorewood Forest in Union Twp. At the time primary plat approval was given for Arbor Lakes, the plan commission pledged to pay half for the sewer line if the developers would include an outlet for the neighboring Summer Hill subdivision.

Burrus said the Plan Commission favored a secondary plat approval for Arbor Lakes last week. The price tag for installing the sewer line is $17,653 and the county approved to pay for no more than $10,000 of its obligation.

Bids received for

Juvenile Service Center revamp

The commissioners approved a stack of project bids during a relatively brief meeting.

A $97,100 bid from Hamstra Builders of Wheatfield was picked up by the commissioner board for upgrades to the court space, offices and classrooms in the non-secure portion of the County Juvenile Service Center. Architect Bob Gerometta, who made the recommendation for Hamstra, said some classrooms and offices will be painted and will feature energy efficient lighting.

Other contract approvals included a $4,062 service agreement with Group 7even for the Porter County Assessor’s website. Chief Deputy Assessor Daniel Timm said the company will update the database feature on the site to make it searchable.

The commissioners also approved a $13,800 measure to fix the county sheriff’s department emergency car generator.

New EMA arrangement

to provide savings

Environmental Department Director Russ Shirley will now wear two hats taking over the county’s Emergency Management Agency director spot days after former EMA director Phil Griffith retired.

The commissioners approved a new budget that will combine EMA with the Environmental Department with a savings of at least $30,000 per year. The two entities currently share a building on Ind. 2.

Assuming his new role, half of Shirley’s EMA salary will be compensated by the state. The county will still be responsible for paying him as the Environmental Department chief.

Evans believes that consolidating the two departments will also enhance the performance of both agencies.

“It is for the best. The (department) will continue to function well if not better,” Evans said.

Land near Portage bridge declared to be condemned

It’s been an issue for a little more than a year and the commissioners took action Tuesday to condemn a parcel next to a deteriorated bridge at Evergreen Ave. in Portage which runs over Willow Creek.

The bridge was closed in March 2011 for safety reasons and the county attempted to work out a deal with the city for a replacement bridge with a sidewalk on one side. The new width however required acquisition of three land parcels for easements.

The county, who is responsible for all bridges longer than 20 feet, offered $5,810 for one of the parcels but the owners, a trust, have not yet responded.

County attorney Betty Knight was asked by the commissioners to file condemnation proceedings with the Porter County Circuit Court. The bridge could be replaced in three or four months after condemnation is finalized.

Posted 7/18/2012