VALPARAISO | The Porter County commissioners began a push Tuesday to dip more deeply into the nearly $11 million in interest on the proceeds from the sale of the county hospital six years ago.
Commissioners John Evans, R-North, and Laura Blaney, D-South, forwarded a request to the County Council for $1.5 million to be spent toward constructing an education and administration building at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.
The pair also announced their intention to ask the council to free up another $1.5 million of the interest money to build a new animal shelter on county-owned land south of the intersection of Ind. 130 and Ind. 149.
"Let's get it done," Evans said of the park project.
County officials have so far spent only a limited amount of the interest money, including $600,000 at the start of the year to buy and renovate the Legacy Banquet Center at 1356 W. Lincolnway in Valparaiso for the PACT alternative sentencing program.
The county is sitting on just more than $159 million in proceeds from the sale of the hospital, according to the treasurer's office.
County Park Superintendent Walter Lenckos told the commissioners Tuesday that demand has so exceeded facilities at Sunset Hill Park that some children's groups have had to be turned away over the past several years.
The park foundation has raised $200,000 in private funds for the building project, which is expected to cost up to $3 million, he said. Plans call for a 10,000-square-foot building and ground could be broken yet this year depending on how fundraising goes.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners agreed to increase the amount of pay and and workload for local resident Curt Ellis, who maintains a county presence on social media sites.
Ellis, who had been paid $10 a day to maintain the animal shelter's Facebook page, will now be paid $18,000 a year to maintain a social media presence for the shelter, Memorial Opera House, Expo Center, parks, a stormwater program and the county as a whole, Blaney said.
Also Tuesday, the commissioners approved a plan to expand the local tourism board by two seats to go after the amateur sports market.
The commissioners appointed Chuck Williams and Doug Olson to fill the Republican and Democrat appointments, respectively.