CROWN POINT | Lake County commissioners tried Wednesday to keep alive a faint hope their bid to take over the bankrupt Indiana Toll Road might yet succeed.
Shaw Friedman, an attorney for the combined Lake and LaPorte County effort, disclosed Wednesday the local government bid for the 157-mile highway was $5.275 billion, only a half a billion less than the apparent winner, IFM Investors, an Australian-based consortium.
The commissioners approved a resolution supporting the local government bid in case the IFM bid falters in the coming months. Friedman and Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, renewed their complaints Wednesday about the hostility of the Indiana Finance Authority officials who approved IFM over the counties' combined bid.
Friedman said the county put together the second-highest bid the state should have declared to be the best and most responsive.
Allen complained IFM is being given until September to close on the purchase. He said the counties' bid would have closed in May. Allen speculated IFM may be having trouble borrowing enough money to finance its bid.
A spokesman for IFM said Wednesday Allen was wrong, because its global finance firm already has committed money for the project in hand.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody called on Gov. Mike Pence to review the actions of the IFA in making its decision on who would control the lease of the Indiana Toll Road.
The state gave up the highway's operation and collection of tolls in 2006 to ITR, an Australian-Spanish consortium. ITR was overwhelmed with debt and went bankrupt late last year
"The state approved the toll road lease a decade ago," Zody said, "on the promise that, in the event of bankruptcy, the road would revert back to state control. The governor and his administration are now going back on their word.
"How is this deal good for Hoosiers? It’s not, and that’s a problem.”
Zody said once the state declined to take back the Indiana Toll Road it should have supported the Lake and LaPorte County bid. "Gov. Pence was elected to look out for Hoosiers, but instead ... his administration is slowly selling our state to the highest bidder."
Stephanie McFarland, a spokeswoman for IFA, said last week it declared the Lake-LaPorte bid "a viable option." She said it was the bankrupt highway's creditors who selected IFM as the winning bid.