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
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
“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
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Along with the outdated pipes, the area also has many low spots, Jabo said,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.
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
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.
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
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.