Chesterton Tribune



Public/private partnership eyed for disbursing county hospital money

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The Porter County Government Nonprofit Charitable Foundation is its own organization, not to be confused with the similarly titled Porter County Community Foundation.

One has a board of trustees consisting of elected officials -- Porter County Commissioners and the County Council -- to oversee the investment of the Porter Memorial Hospital sale principal while the other is governed by a private board made up of 28 representatives of different businesses and volunteers throughout the county to distribute thousands of dollars in donations to local nonprofit groups and causes.

But the two Foundations may form a partnership to give grants from the interest earnings made from the hospital sale investment.

On Tuesday, the County Council and Commissioners invited PCCF President and CEO William Higbie to share what the process is like to administer grants so that they could better strategize what steps to take in establishing a grant application process for the interest funds. That is, if they decide to have grants.

“We need to find if this is something we want to do on our own or if this is something we want to partner with as a community foundation,” said Council President Mike Jessen, R-4th, who chairs the County Government Foundation.

Higbie explained the steps of setting guidelines for who would qualify to receive grant monies from the foundation, determine how frequently the grants would be offered and would it be competitive, find out who is going to manage the application process and be on hand to answer any questions that applicants may have, decide whether a rubric will be used to score applications or if it would be done more subjectively by discussing and weighinf each of the applicant’s merits, communicate with the applicants the selections and store and maintain records.

All of this can be time consuming, Higbie summed up.

“There is a lot involved,” he said. “We are happy to help in whatever benefits you are trying to do in injecting some resources in the nonprofit community in Porter County.”

Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, surmised that if the Government Foundation was to operate alone on the grant process, the County would have to hire someone to manage it. “Our staff is not trained in this area,” he said.

Council member Sylvia Graham asked what the scope of work would be based on how much money is to be given. Higbie said he did not know the exact answer but said that it would take the same time to give away $50,000 that it takes to give away $500.

Advisory member to the Government Foundation board Matt Vessley said the board should first decide how many grants they would be giving out and how often. That would determine how much work they will need to accomplish.

“It could be a one-person job or a five-person job, depending on how many grants you have,” he said.

Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, said that scholarship committees she’s been involved with do require much time and effort in order to be done right.

Jessen, in the end, asked Higbie to speak with his board and see if it would be interested in the prospect of forming a partnership to work together on grants.

Also, the Foundation a committee consisting of Jessen, Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, Dan Whitten, D-at large, Commissioners Blaney and Jeff Good, R-Center, County Attorney Scott McClure, Council Attorney Harold Harper, and County Auditor Vicki Urbanik, is to start work on what the guidelines will be for any grant process. They will bring those ideas to the whole Foundation board at a future meeting.

The Government Foundation has faced mounting pressure in recent months to grant the investment earnings from the hospital sale proceeds.

Supporters of The Caring Place in May requested the use of money from the Foundation to help pay for a new $2.8 million shelter as its current building is over 100 years old and has structural problems. At the Foundation’s June 27 meeting, Valparaiso resident Candace Shaw contended that the money from the Foundation should go to assist nonprofit groups in the county and not for Porter County Government capital projects.

Independent Auditor

The Council and Commissioners interviewed two firms in the running to be the Foundation’s independent auditor and selected Katz, Sapper & Miller, which is a CPA accounting firm based in Indianapolis.

From Katz, Sapper & Miller, Scott Schuster and Amanda Horvath said their firm is the largest Indiana based CPA and has experience auditing and reviewing accounts of nonprofit and government entities, as well as working with the Indiana State Board of Accounts. Their client list includes the John W. Anderson Foundation in Valparaiso and Pines Village Retirement Communities.

The other firm interviewed was Kemper CPA Group LLC.

McClure said the statute creating the Foundation requires the utilization of an independent firm to audit the accounts. Porter County is the first and only county to create a Foundation out of the statute.

“This is uncharted territory,” said McClure. “We’ve got one foot in government and the other in a (501c3) nonprofit organization.”

Voting to hire Katz, Sapper & Miller for an agreement of two years, with costs to be determined later, were the eight Foundation members present. Absent from the meeting were Whitten and Good.

Also, the Foundation will be taking applications to replace advisory member David Rose who retired from Horizon Bank. The appointment would need to be a bank employee from Porter County.


Posted 8/16/2017




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