Porter County is good to go for another five years of ambulance service.
Services will continue to be provided by Porter Health Systems which has
been the county’s choice provider since 1988.
Despite a shaky start to contract renegotiations, the commissioners
peacefully signed on with the company Tuesday to operate its ambulances at
the price levels previously mentioned during the county councils budget
hearings last month. The county has agreed to give the hospital $650,000 the
first and second years of the plan, followed by increments of $750,000 for
years three and four, and $1 million for the fifth and final year.
Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said he is proud of the fact the
deal will save the county $1.2 million overall. The amount is the difference
between what the hospital was originally asking for in the long run, $1
million per year ($ 1 million x5 = $5 million), and what was finally agreed
upon ($650,000 x2 + $750,000 x2 + $1 million = $3.8 million).
When the hospital representatives approached the commissioners in August,
the hospital made the request for the county to restore the subsidy to $1
million or what was originally contracted in 2003 before the bankruptcy of
Bethlehem Steel Co. The subsidy had been reduced to $500,000.
Certain members of the Porter County Council like Jeremy Rivas and Jim
Polarek implored the county to consider other options that would have
involved township or municipality emergency response services. Council
member Jim Biggs questioned why the hospital wanted to raise the subsidy
while ambulance calls reportedly decreased in the past few years, while the
commissioners felt it was the their responsibility to approve the contracts.
Although some were reluctant, all seven members of the council voted
unanimously in October to continue with Porter hospital providing an annual
subsidy that would come directly out of sale proceeds of Porter hospital
which has a base of roughly $160 million. This cleared the way for the
commissioners to renew the contracts which expire at the end of this year.
“This has been a long deal and I am really glad the way it worked out,” said
Evans. “It’s really a win-win-win for everyone in Porter County to have
service like this available.”
Sitting before the commissioners were Porter CEO Jonathan Nalli and
Ambulance Service Director Gary Atherton who were happy with the terms of
“We are extraordinarily pleased with this,” he said. “We look forward to
providing the service for years and years to come to the people of Porter
Two other contracts were also approved for a one-year agreement with the
City of Portage and Portage Twp. The City of Portage has aided the county to
provide service to its outlying areas such as Ogden Dunes. The contract is
for $175,000 for the city.
A new part of the contracts will also give Portage Twp. a yearly stipend of
$40,000 for the South Haven Fire Department that provides backup service for
Portage. The increase of $40,000 from $25,000 is so Portage will no longer
need to pay funds to South Haven.
Three weeks after the county held its 2011 tax sale, the commissioners have
decided they will follow up with a tax certificate sale of their own. This
will be the first sale of its kind since 2003, according to county attorney
In a certificate sale, the commissioners can reduce the price of delinquent
tax liens to make them more desirable for potential buyers.
SRI Inc. will be contracted to help conduct the sale, the same company hired
to run the tax sale on Oct. 26.
SRI Client Service Director Glen Luedtke said there are 357 property liens
from the sale that have not been purchased and could win the county back up
to $4.6 million in uncollected taxes that would be put back on the tax
The county has netted $3.64 million so far this year from owners and buyers
of the tax liens, $1.37 million of that directly from the tax sale which
sold 179 liens.
Luedtke said the certificates sold at the upcoming commissioners’ sale also
have a shorter redemption period. While delinquent property owners have
exactly one year to redeem a lien buyer, those purchased at the
commissioner’s sale have only 120 days.
Luedtke also recommended the commissioners hold a two-week sale on the
internet prior to having a live sale later on. He said this method has
proved successful in other counties.
The commissioners contracted to have the internet sale and a live sale with
the suggested starting date of Feb. 6 next year.
To participate in the internet sale, purchasers must register on the SRI web
site, Luedtke said.
The charge for SRI to hold the sale depends on the number of certificates
purchased. From the 179 liens sold at the Oct. 26 tax sale, SRI was paid
$16,720 for its services.
Opera House to
use $250,000 from CEDIT
Opera House Business Director Brian Schafer won support from the
commissioners to forge ahead with structural renovations at the 118-year old
facility using county economic development income tax dollars.
The commissioner approved $250,000 from CEDIT funds which Schafer hopes the
county council will approve at its meeting next week. The amount stems from
the results of a needs assessment study conducted by DLZ Indiana who the
commissioners hired to evaluate specific county buildings in need of
Schafer sought the CEDIT funding so the refurbishments would not have to be
paid out of the county’s general fund.
If the CEDIT funds are approved, this will give the Opera House the
flexibility in its budget to hire a marketing and group sales director, a
house manager and a bookkeeper which will be split with the county expo
The council initially approved the positions but later axed them in the
final 2012 budget readings when funding for all budgets was tightened.
Schafer has said the salaries for the new workers would only be a one-time
expense for the county, anticipating the Opera House will become
Missing from Tuesday’s meeting was South Porter County Commissioner Carole
Knoblock who suffered an injury while at home on Monday. She is currently
being treated at Porter Hospital for a broken hip.
Evans said Knoblock is expected to recover soon and be back to public
service within a few weeks time.