NIRPC looks at possible move for 1st time in 20 years

2013-02-21T12:03:00Z 2013-02-21T15:47:03Z NIRPC looks at possible move for 1st time in 20 yearsBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com
February 21, 2013 12:03 pm  • 

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission is preparing a request for proposals that could lead to a move out of the Portage headquarters building it has occupied since 1993.

The organization's 20-year lease with the Portage Redevelopment Commission for office space at 6100 Southport Road runs out at the end of this year, and the organization will be seeking proposals from across the region for a new lease, NIRPC Treasurer Blair Milo told the group's executive board Thursday.

NIRPC moved to its current headquarters building from Highland in 1993. It occupies 19,000 square feet there and pays monthly rent of $18,800. The Northwest Indiana Forum also occupies space at the building.

“There is no reason not to be here, but we do want to open it to a competitive process,” said NIRPC Vice Chairman Brian Snedecor at Thursday's executive board meeting at the headquarters.

Snedecor said NIRPC would encourage communities from throughout the three-county area to submit proposals for hosting the organization if they have available space. Portage also will be able to submit a proposal for leasing space to NIRPC at the current location or another.

NIRPC serves as a metropolitan planning organization for transportation in Porter, Lake, and LaPorte counties. It also serves as a regional council of governments with planning responsibilities for economic development and land use.

The organization has 27 employees and a 2013 budget of $3.62 million.

Former NIRPC chairman Geof Benson pointed out moving is not always easy. When NIRPC moved from Highland to Portage in 1993, the Lake County Commission threatened to leave the organization.

Milo and other board members who recently attended a national planning conference in Washington, D.C., also warned about the devastating effects the deep spending cuts to come under the federal budget sequestration scheduled for March 1 could have on local communities.

“There are challenges that come with sequestration, and we are concerned about those,” Milo said. “It's a frustrating time in Washington, D.C."

The sequestration will come about if Congressional Democrats and Republicans cannot come up with a budget solution that will be signed by President Barack Obama.

Among programs on the chopping block important to Northwest Indiana communities are a host of transportation programs and the Community Development Block Grants, which pay for improvements to housing, parks and public spaces throughout Northwest Indiana, Milo said.

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