VALPARAISO | Tuesday's election had little impact on the bipartisan factions that left a lingering dispute over next year's Porter County budget.
The two sides are faced with the challenge of coming up with a compromise to fund such big ticket items as employee health insurance, long-term funding for E911, round-the-clock medical services at the jail and the opening of the third pod at the jail.
"I hope we can figure out a way to meet in the middle — we have to," said County Councilwoman Laura Blaney, who was victorious Tuesday in her bid to take over next year as the South District county commissioner.
Blaney had teamed up with fellow Democratic Councilman Dan Whitten, Republican Councilwoman Karen Conover and Republican County Commissioner John Evans in a failed attempt approve an alternative budget to the successful $38 million proposal supported by Republican councilmen Jim Biggs and Jim Polarek, and Democratic council members Sylvia Graham and Jeremy Rivas.
Graham and Whitten won re-election Tuesday, and Democrat Bob Poparad was elected to replace Blaney on the council.
Graham, who received more votes than any of the six candidates running for the three open council seats, said she is prepared to cooperate with anyone, including Evans, who actively opposed her re-election.
The alternative $39.9 million budget supported by Evans covered the cost of big ticket items, in part, by relying on a $2.5 million contribution of local income tax revenue. Use of the income tax money and other non-property tax dollars call for an agreement between the commissioners and council.
Graham called on Evans to again put the $2.5 million in income tax revenue on the table to cover the big ticket items.
"I think it would be a very good way to show the people of Porter County we are working together," she said.
Evans said Friday he has attempted to work with the council and continues to be willing to do so, but said the group has to stop opposing his every step and give him some say over the use of the income tax revenue. He wants to see the proposed $500 raises for county employees restored and wants the council to return the $2.7 million cut from the commissioners budget that amounted to 62 percent of the county's overall reduction.
In addition to income tax revenue, the county can tap into the interest on the money generated from the sale of the county hospital, he said.
Porter County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, said the need for county officials to put their personal feelings aside and begin working more closely with one another goes beyond next year's budget.
The county has many other needs that must be addressed, including ongoing maintenance of its buildings and drainage projects.
"I would hope it will be a positive," she said of Tuesday's election results, "but I really don't know."