CHESTERTON | Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs said he is not in favor of the county supporting costs for the Ind. 49 utility corridor and -- when time comes for the decision -- he will vote no.
Biggs said this week, after reading recent comments from Chesterton Councilman Jeff Trout, he felt compelled to voice his opposition to the project. The project would use County Economic Development Income Tax funds to pay for the county’s portion of extending utilities from the new Porter hospital north to Chesterton.
County Council member Laura Blaney, D-at large, made the recommendation at the July 3 commissioners meeting the $742,409 for the county’s contribution come from CEDIT funds. The commissioners voted 2-1 to endorse the partnership.
“From the very beginning I’ve always felt the project by the town has a lot of merit. There’s a lot of validity to what they want to do. The only question from the county’s point of view, as far as I was concerned, was our ability to participate as an investor, from a financial point of view,” Biggs said.
He said he is not in support of the project, especially because he sees there may be extra costs in the future.
“There’s been little if any conversation about any long-term reoccurring costs associated to that investment, which I’m sure being part owner of a sewerline, there are expenses there,” Biggs said.
The main reason Biggs said the project is a bad idea is because there are other needs in the county.
“Until our county has put itself in a position where we have addressed the two largest issues we’re facing now, the permanent funding of 911 emergency service and jail overcrowded, I don’t see that we’re in any position to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars toward a project that may have reoccurring costs,” he said.
Blaney said the Porter County Council will address the needs, but economic development should also be a focus to grow the county and recover from financial constraints.
“We do have big expenses coming up, I know that. But I want the council to look at this project closely because I think it’s using economic development money for economic development. It’s a way of working together with communities to create jobs,” Blaney said.
She said now is the time for the county to act on the project.
“It’s going to cost more the longer we wait and I think it would be irresponsible on our part to not look at it real closely. The town of Chesterton is covering all of the soft costs, the engineering costs, the attorney costs, and this is a big savings for the county," Blaney said.
The County Council will meet to discuss and vote on the recommendation at 5:30 p.m. July 24 at the Porter County Administration Building.