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Commissioners move to push Council member off RDC

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Board of Commissioners took action Tuesday to revise the ordinance which created the County’s Redevelopment Commission with statutory powers last summer.

The Commissioners voted 3-0 to change the language in the ordinance to state that the County Council’s citizen appointment has to be a non-elected official and that the Council President’s seat, or his designee, must hold the seat for at least a year.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said that state statute allows for the Council to appoint either its president or a designee to one seat on the Redevelopment Commission and one citizen appointee. But Evans expressed displeasure at how frequently the designees have changed and that the citizen appointment is filled by a current Council member.

“This board is making some pretty big decisions and there needs to be some continuity,” Evans said.

The RDC is the body with statutory authority to propose tax increment finance allocation areas. Currently the County RDC is in the process of drawing a TIF area along the U.S. 6 corridor and the area surrounding Porter Regional Hospital.

When the RDC was formed last summer, the council’s seat was to be filled by then-Council President Dan Whitten, D-At Large, who designated fellow Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, to the seat. Rivas had not been able to attend the meetings consecutively and, as the new Council president, designated Council member Sylvia Graham, D-At Large, for the seat just this past month.

Council member Jim Polarek, R-4th, was voted as the Council’s citizen appointment in July by a split vote. Council attorney Scott McClure advised the Council then that Polarek is a resident of Porter County and therefore complies with statute as a citizen appointment.

However, according to the Commissioners’ new amendment Tuesday, the appointment must be a non-elected official which means Polarek will have to be replaced.

No changes were made to the County Commissioners’ appointments. RDC member John Shepherd will remain as the Commissioner President’s designee and Dave Burrus and Ric Frataccia are the citizen appointments.

Rivas, who was not at the Commissioners’ meeting, later told the Chesterton Tribune he will reevaluate the Council appointments but said he does not understand why the changes are being made since the state statute does not forbid elected officials serving in the citizen seat. The only requirement is that the seat holder be a resident of the county, he said.

In Rivas’ view, a redevelopment commission should be made up of as many elected officials as possible for the purpose of accountability.

“That is a board that could possibly oversee millions and millions of taxpayer dollars,” said Rivas. “The County has elections so that those who are responsible for taxpayer dollars are held accountable every two or four years.”

Rivas said he’d prefer if the Redevelopment Commission met in the evening when it is more convenient for members of the public to attend. The RDC currently meets on the third Thursday of every month at 8:30 a.m.

New MS4 Committee

In other action, the Commissioners created a new development committee for the County’s MS4 stormwater management program.

Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, said the committee is needed to help the County Surveyor keep on schedule with MS4 projects. On the committee will be one County Commissioner, the County Highway Supervisor or a designee, a Commissioner citizen appointment, the County Parks Superintendent, the County Surveyor, the president of the County Drainage Board, a representative from County Soil and Water and the executive director of the Plan Commission.

The Commissioners unanimously agreed to hire Richard Hudson to be the coordinator of the MS4 program at a compensatory rate of $50 an hour.

MS4 is a federally mandated program that is regulated locally through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Its main objectives include improving water quality and educating the public on water protection.

 

Posted 3/6/2013