Chesterton town officials used Wednesday night’s joint meeting of the Porter
County Council and Commissioners to formally propose a partnership on the US
49 Utility Corridor project.
Councilman Jeff Trout, council president Sharon Darnell, town engineer Mark
Dell and a team of consultants gave the 10 county officials a presentation
on what they believe can be a major economic driver for both Chesterton and
The plan is to extend utility services, water, sewers and fiber optics from
Chesterton’s borders all the way to US 6 to take advantage of the new
hospital location. The proposed utility corridor would serve 950 acres and
have the potential to attract both residential and commercial developments
and provide high-paying jobs.
“Porter County has a great chance to use the $265 million hospital project
for growth,” Trout said. “It’s the largest development project in Porter
County since Bethlehem Steel.
“We have something much bigger than Chesterton. If we do this right it is
something that can benefit the whole county.”
Chesterton’s proposal was for the county to contribute $2 million in CEDIT
funds to the approximately $6 million total for the project. The town has
committed $1.2 million and is seeking $2.7 million from the Northwest
Commissioner John Evans said he was enthusiastic about the project and has
previously publically supported the county getting involved, but he asked if
the county would receive money back through tap-on fees and similar sources.
Other council members were interested by the project but shared the concern
about receiving tap-on fees to get a return on the investment.
Trout said Chesterton officials wanted to get involved with the county as a
partner more than asking for a loan but that the town would be willing to
negotiate with the county to make this project a reality. Trout also said he
believed that a partnership between the town and county would look better on
the grant application to the RDA and give it a better chance of securing the
“Partnership is what we really want,” Trout said. “This can be more
effective if we all do this together.”
Because this was Chesterton’s first official proposal to the county, Evans
recommended that Trout discuss Chesterton’s plan with Porter County’s
Executive Director of Planning Bob Thompson to see if it aligns with the
county’s plan and then go forward from that point.
“It’s an opportunity,” county council vice president Jim Biggs said.
“There’s no doubt there’s an opportunity. There’s a whole lot of work to be
done here though.
“This is a very special area. We need to listen to the planners and the
experts, but we also need to listen to the residents and property owners.”
joint session also heard a presentation from Todd Samuelson of Umbaugh
Financial Services about how the county’s comprehensive master plan will be
had already given his presentation to the commissioners at an October
meeting, told the council that Umbaugh has been doing financial planning for
60 years and provides extensive knowledge of what types of government funds
can be used for certain projects.
Biggs said that
what Umbaugh can provide sounds like it will help the county create the
plan, but he wants to make sure 99 percent of the decisions come from the
county and one percent from the company.
The council also
stressed to Samuelson that the major concern was creating additional
recurring budget costs, especially with insurance costs soaring and the E911
shortfall unfunded, not coming up with capital for projects.
“We didn’t get
to where we are by telling people what to do, we are a teammate,” Samuelson
he plans to meet with all the county’s department heads and elected
officials to create a list of priorities and that he should be able to
return in 60 days with some results.