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Evans wants to see structural changes on Gary Chicago airport board

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, couldn’t hold his tongue any longer about the way things are on the Gary/Chicago Airport board.

As the commissioners named their nomination for the seven-member regional board at the start of Tuesday’s Commissioner meeting, Evans said he has always been “displeased” by way the board is structured with the City of Gary holding the majority of the power while the airport is supported by a variety of NWI entities through the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

As Evans explained, the commissioners get to choose one representative to the board. The Lake County Commissioners also get to appoint one member and so does the Indiana Governor’s office. The Mayor of Gary however is allowed four representatives.

Since Gary has been behind on its annual $3.5 million in payments to the RDA, Evans said he believes the board’s structure should be looked at and “made fair to the people that do pay their RDA dues.”

Evans nominated Nicole Thorn to be the County’s pick which met with the approval of fellow County Commissioners Nancy Adams, R-Center, and Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South.

Thorn had been the finance manager for the airport until last year and now works as a CPA in Portage, Evans said.

Evans, who has sat on the board previously, expressed his confidence that Thorn will work to the best of her ability for Porter County residents.

“She is the kind of person Porter County needs to see what’s going on there,” said Evans.

Planner term limit adjusted

In another matter, the commissioners adjusted David Collins’ term on the nine-member plan commission from four years to three years to “get it back on the right track” with the other plan appointments by the commissioners.

Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson said the matter goes back to 2000 when state statute said county commissioners had to make five appointments, four were to be citizens but one had to be a township trustee.

Due to objections from commissioners around the state, the state changed the policy the next year to reflect that trustees no longer need to be represented. The county commissioners then in 2001 appointed a new member, Mike Bucko, to a new four-year term.

Bucko was succeeded by Elizabeth Marshall in 2005 who was reappointed to a second four-year term but resigned in January 2012 almost a year before that term ended. After applications were taken, the Commissioners appointed Collins last February.

Thompson said the term schedule for this particular seat still has not been corrected. To fix the matter, all three commissioners said yes to having Collins carry over to a three-year term starting this month instead of beginning a new four-year term, therefore getting back to the original cycle when the seat becomes available again at the end of 2015.

With the adjustment, Thompson said the Commissioners will now have one new appointment to make every year.

Retiree honored

On the 45th anniversary of joining the county health department, the Commissioners passed a resolution to thank Valparaiso resident Joann Donlin for her “relentless dedication” and service as the department’s vital records officer.

Donlin, who will retire later this year, thanked the commissioners for the honor and her many colleagues. She said she recalls starting when the health department was located at the intersection of Lincolnway and Westin in Valparaiso which was later moved to the former Porter County Jail building and then to Calumet Ave. before ending up on the bottom floor of the county administration building.

Evans said Donlin has been responsible for statistics and records and performed all accounting procedures for the health department. “I don’t know how they are going to get along without you.”

Union Twp. school referendum

Evans announced that there will be a special election in the county this year. Having received approval from the County Clerk’s office this week, the Union Twp. School District will ask its voters on May 7 to raise their property taxes by 22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to cover shortfalls in school budgets, similar to the Duneland Schools referendum last year.

If anyone else wishes to include something on the ballot, now is the time to do so, Evans said.

In other business:

• The Commissioners approved an amendment to the agreement with health benefits administrator Stewart C. Miller. The agreement states that the County will pay for printing and postage of health ID cards for county employees mailed out in mass quantity while the administrator agrees to pay for printing and postage of member ID weekly requests.

• More emergency repairs to the Memorial Opera House will be made. This time, inspections and repairs to the exterior masonry will be done for a price of $5,000 with CCD funds. The work will be done by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., of Northbrook, Ill.

• Evans said he is working with a group of County Council members on a comprehensive plan for future spending, adding that communication is taking place. “We will continue to work towards that avenue,” Evans said.

 

 

 

 

Posted 1/23/2013