Advances in economic development, planning lauded

2014-03-16T00:00:00Z 2014-03-16T01:04:15Z Advances in economic development, planning laudedHeather Augustyn Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 16, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Sure Porter County government has seen its share of challenges lately, some of them pretty large, but there have been enough successes over the past year or two and planning for the future to shed a little sunshine on the efforts of all involved.

Porter County Commissioner John Evans said he has seen some significant advancements made in the county over the past few years, one of which is the creation of the jobs Cabinet which submitted its final report to the county at the end of 2012.

“They did a great job. They were all volunteers and were very successful and influential people who tried to move Porter County ahead,” said Evans of the report that advised on capital projects such as how to use the $159 million in principal and $11.6 million in interest from the 2007 sale of Porter Hospital.

Evans said that determining how to invest that hospital nest egg is one of the major issues the county will try to resolve in the coming year or two.

“We have to try to diversify our tax base, increase our revenues without increasing taxes. We need an additional $5 million in revenue to cover the budget shortfall and looking at the hospital proceeds would go a long way to cover the shortfall. And I’m looking forward to working with the council to invest and protect the nest egg, to keep the principal as it is and increase the dollar amount we get in interest to cover the shortfall,” he said.

Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs agrees hospital proceeds are also at the top of the agenda.

“It appears that we will come to some kind of an agreement on how best to use the hospital principal monies, investing in our own future and if done properly to address some of the things that we have not addressed in years such as repairing stormwater drainage, repairing buildings, and creating more employment in the county,” Biggs said.

He counts as successes the $600,000 purchase and remodeling of the new PACT building as an alternative to jail and the Ind. 49 utility corridor extension as a driver for economic development.

County Council President Dan Whitten also hails the Ind. 49 utility corridor extension as a success, a project that was done in conjunction with the town of Chesterton. He said other capital improvements will pay off in dividends in the future.

“Some of the capital projects, like work to the Memorial Opera House, an historic building that needed preservation ... we put some money into it and it’s generating some funds to make it self-sufficient. We are doing studies on what a new (animal) shelter might look like and discussing funding issues and that is one of the projects we will take on for the future, but the animal shelter has come a long way. A few years ago it was a disaster and we have historically had problems, which are being resolved and they are doing some wonderful things there,” Whitten said,.

Also on the horizon are discussions for a park in the southern part of the county as well as developing the park at Sunset Hill, Whitten said.

 “A lot of groundwork has been laid for future development and jobs into the county,” he added.

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