VALPARAISO | The debate over the starting date of the tax abatement at Porter Regional Hospital became even muddier Tuesday as a result of a smaller, medical office building at the site not owned by the hospital.
Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, held a news conference to share his research that found The Sanders Trust realty firm in Birmingham, Ala., was chosen over 20 companies for the right to develop the 60,000-square-foot building.
This development approach was not discussed when the 10 years of tax breaks were awarded by the County Council in 2009, Biggs said. There is nothing in the agreement indicating the hospital's intention to include more than its main building. The building permit for the medical office structure was issued in the name of the hospital, he said.
Biggs questioned whether the construction and jobs reported by the hospital to meet the obligations of the abatement included positions associated with this outpatient building.
"The degree of clandestineness on the part of the hospital regarding this matter is concerning to say the least," he said.
Biggs said he intends to ask the County Council not to extend the tax breaks to the outpatient building. Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, agrees.
Whitten said the abatement's intention was to give the tax breaks to the hospital and not other developments attracted to the area.
Steve Hewett, senior vice president of The Sanders Trust, said his firm holds majority ownership of the outpatient building, with the balance owned by other investors, made up mostly of physicians doing business at the site.
The land is owned by the hospital, he said, which is a common arrangement for the firm in its other projects around the country.
Officials at Porter Regional Hospital declined comment Tuesday.
Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder said he has been denied access to the outpatient building for assessment purposes, which he said is unusual considering he has the right under the law.
Opinions on when the abatement should start include the time of its approval in 2009, when it was first assessed before completion in 2012 and after the building was done.