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
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
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
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 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
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.
In another matter, the commissioners held a first reading and public hearing
on an ordinance establishing a grant fund for comprehensive drainage
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,
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
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.
The commissioners approved a stack of project bids during a relatively brief
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
The commissioners also approved a $13,800 measure to fix the county
sheriff’s department emergency car generator.
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.
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
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.