Chesterton Tribune

Porter County creates new fund for Chesterton 49 corridor

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County has 30 days to accept Chesterton’s offer to join forces with the town in upgrading utilities to position the Ind. 49 corridor for new economic development, Chesterton Town Council member Jeff Trout told the county commissioners this week.

Trout attended the commissioners meeting Tuesday with news that the bids are in for Ind. 49 corridor project and the price for the county to upsize the pipes for sanitary sewer and water lines is now $742,409, which Trout implied would be good reason for the county to make its decision soon considering the original projected cost of $900,000.

“We are anxious to get started but wanted to see if the county would join us to make this a regional project,” Trout said.

The corridor would run into unincorporated Liberty Twp., extending past Chesterton’s southernmost town boundary which falls at two annexed parcels at CR 900 N.

In attendance, County Council member Laura Blaney, D-at large, lauded the project saying the effort would bring needed jobs and suggested the commissioners take their request of the money to the Council in the form of a CEDIT (County Economic Development Income Tax) project since its intended use is for economic development.

If the county doesn’t act on it, it would be a bigger hit to the county’s pocketbook later when the development does come and the county would have to install the needed utilities themselves, Blaney and Trout said.

“It will only get more expensive if we don’t (accept the offer),” said Blaney.

Adding to the incentive, Trout said the town would take care of all the associated “soft costs” such as attorney fees, engineering costs, etc. He estimated it to be about $70,000 or 10 percent of the upgrade costs.

Both Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, and Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, voted yes to create the CEDIT fund while the board’s sole Democrat, South Commissioner Carole Knoblock dissented.

Knoblock remarked she did not know before the meeting they were going to talk about the corridor project and said more time should have been allowed out of consideration to Liberty Twp. residents. Evans told her nothing has changed about the deal since it was first presented to them in February, other than the price.

The commissioners voted 2-1 to endorse the partnership at their Feb. 21 meeting but so far the county council, the county’s fiscal body, has yet to see a formal request to appropriate the money. The matter was informally discussed during the Council’s regular meeting in April with public comments.

Partnering with municipalities is “one of the obligations” the Commissioners have, Evans said, and agreed that the collaboration will be in the county’s best interest.

“The growth is going to come. We have a $250 million hospital sitting there and no one is going to shun away from it. To be prepared is to be smart,” Evans said.

Trout made the case that partnering with Chesterton’s municipal utility, which gets its water from the Indiana American Water Company, would be more beneficial to the county than the option of having the area serviced by the Damon Run Conservancy District.

Trout said according to documents filed in January with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, Damon Run Conservancy in the year 2010 saw a negative amount of $3,170,576 in its balance for the year.

Heads of the Damon Run Conservancy District and a few Liberty Twp. residents presented an opposing view to the County Council in April, saying they have confidence that the conservancy district is capable of servicing new businesses in the corridor since the district is not even running at one-fourth its capacity, even with servicing the hospital.

Jack Barko, president of the Damon Run Board of Directors, said he would be willing to go through a due process with the county to determine if the conservancy district’s services can better serve the area.

With the commissioners vote to create the CEDIT project, the fate of the request rests in the hands of the County Council which will review the matter at its next meeting on July 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the Porter County Administration Building.

 

Posted 7/5/2012