Chesterton Tribune

Evans suggests hospital sale money be used for South Haven drainage work

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The lingering question of how to pay for the extensive drainage remedial work for the South Haven area may finally receive an answer.

Porter County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said he would talk to the council next month on dipping into the hospital sale proceeds to find funding for the drainage project which now comes with a price tag of over $16 million.

Drainage Board President Dave Burrus along with Mike Jabo of DLZ Indiana brought the commissioners up to date Tuesday on the work being done at South Haven which has been flagged as the county’s most troubled spot for drainage.

“We’ve reached a milestone that is pretty significant,” Burrus said. That milestone is being able to determine exactly what needs to be done after more than a year of identifying the problems, formulating engineering solutions and calculating cost estimates for the solutions.

Officials originally estimated the work would be $10 million but there will need to be an additional $6.5 million in maintenance improvements along with infrastructure repairs.

Jabo and Burrus said the maintenance portion would bring the most relief in the quickest time, placing polymer linings to strengthen the existing corrugated metal pipes put in during the 1960s.

Jabo said the new lining would make the pipes durable for the next twenty years. He estimated South Haven to have 30,000 feet of sewer pipe.

Along with the outdated pipes, the area also has many low spots, Jabo said, where severe road damage is often seen.

“There is not much value in these roads,” he said.

Road improvements may be attended to later. Burrus said pipe work could take about a year to complete if that is the preference of the county.

Jabo and Burrus talked three different funding routes the county could consider. They include spending the $16.5 million during the next two years, spreading it out over eight years, or staying with the current County Council plan of allocating $2 million toward drainage projects annually for the next five years.

Evans pushed for the work to be carried out as soon as it’s feasible.

“It’s really been an ongoing task. I personally would like to see them done as soon as possible,” he said.

He then suggested the group ask council members their thoughts on using funds from the hospital sale at their upcoming April 3 meeting. County Treasurer Mike Buckco said the county has over $170 million in sale funds and currently $9.5 million in interest.

In order to approve money from the sale proceeds, a unanimous vote must be given by the council and the commission. The interest on the other hand can be spent just with a majority vote across both boards.

“It might be the first real good use of those funds. It will benefit an entire region,” said Evans.

The council appropriated $2 million for drainage work during last fall’s council budget hearings, half of it from hospital interest money and the other half from a commissioner CEDIT project.

Burrus said the idea for the county comprehensive drainage study started in 2009 after the county saw massive flooding throughout. Almost 1,500 different drainage problem areas have been identified in the study.

Health Coverage Plan Renewed

Mike Anton of Anton Insurance and the county’s third-party administrator for insurance Stewart C. Miller said their original estimates indicating major hikes in a new employee health insurance plan are not as severe as they first thought when they presented plan options to the commissioners on March 6.

In a reevaluation brought on by many catastrophic claims in the past year (the highest single claim being $690,000), the county was looking to raise its $125,000 maximum deductible for each employee, with a projected overall cost of $12 million for this year, compared to $9 million seen during the past fiscal year. However, Anton said the prices should be closer to the previous year’s than expected with only slight potential increases to the plan’s ULLICO and COBRA rates.

Anton discussed other routes the county could pursue such as the investigating the insurance provider for Porter hospital that offers wellness programs or authorize a claims-based study carried out by the Milliman group to determine which other incentives could be offered.

Citing the fact that the county’s current plan ends on March 31, Evans and fellow Commissioner Nancy Adams voted to renew the contracts with Anton Insurance and Stewart C. Miller. Costs agreed to are $13.68 with Anton for each employee claim filed and $2.88 for each with Stewart C. Miller. The policy will kick in on April 1.

On a different note, Anton said he “has not dismissed” and is still investigating ClaimLinx’s claim is could save the county millions of dollars by setting up individual health plans. The company pitched its services to the county council in February.

TQM Program Awarded Contracts

In other business, Evans and fellow Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, approved a list of contracts that will be included in the 2012 Total Quality Management (TQM) plan presented by County Auditor Bob Wichlinski. The contracts total around $200,000 and will be paid out of the auditor’s non-reverting fund. One of the contracts to set up video/audio equipment to record meetings inside the commissioners’ chambers was withheld at the request of Evans who wanted to speak with another vendor first.

Wichlinski told the commissioners many of the contracts are for one-time matters and will not be recurring next year.

He said three members have been added to the “TQM team” this year – Recorder Jon Miller, Portage Twp. Assessor Millie Arocho and County Clerk Karen Martin.

Knoblock injured

Southern County Commissioner Carole Knoblock was absent Tuesday and may not be able to attend meetings for perhaps two months.

Evans at the start of the meeting announced that Knoblock had suffered an injury is expected to be recovering for the next six weeks.





Posted 3/21/2012