Porter County has 30 days to accept Chesterton’s offer to join forces with
the town in upgrading utilities to position the Ind. 49 corridor for new
economic development, Chesterton Town Council member Jeff Trout told the
county commissioners this week.
Trout attended the commissioners meeting Tuesday with news that the bids are
in for Ind. 49 corridor project and the price for the county to upsize the
pipes for sanitary sewer and water lines is now $742,409, which Trout
implied would be good reason for the county to make its decision soon
considering the original projected cost of $900,000.
“We are anxious to get started but wanted to see if the county would join us
to make this a regional project,” Trout said.
The corridor would run into unincorporated Liberty Twp., extending past
Chesterton’s southernmost town boundary which falls at two annexed parcels
at CR 900 N.
In attendance, County Council member Laura Blaney, D-at large, lauded the
project saying the effort would bring needed jobs and suggested the
commissioners take their request of the money to the Council in the form of
a CEDIT (County Economic Development Income Tax) project since its intended
use is for economic development.
If the county doesn’t act on it, it would be a bigger hit to the county’s
pocketbook later when the development does come and the county would have to
install the needed utilities themselves, Blaney and Trout said.
“It will only get more expensive if we don’t (accept the offer),” said
Adding to the incentive, Trout said the town would take care of all the
associated “soft costs” such as attorney fees, engineering costs, etc. He
estimated it to be about $70,000 or 10 percent of the upgrade costs.
Both Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, and Commissioner Nancy
Adams, R-Center, voted yes to create the CEDIT fund while the board’s sole
Democrat, South Commissioner Carole Knoblock dissented.
Knoblock remarked she did not know before the meeting they were going to
talk about the corridor project and said more time should have been allowed
out of consideration to Liberty Twp. residents. Evans told her nothing has
changed about the deal since it was first presented to them in February,
other than the price.
The commissioners voted 2-1 to endorse the partnership at their Feb. 21
meeting but so far the county council, the county’s fiscal body, has yet to
see a formal request to appropriate the money. The matter was informally
discussed during the Council’s regular meeting in April with public
Partnering with municipalities is “one of the obligations” the Commissioners
have, Evans said, and agreed that the collaboration will be in the county’s
“The growth is going to come. We have a $250 million hospital sitting there
and no one is going to shun away from it. To be prepared is to be smart,”
Trout made the case that partnering with Chesterton’s municipal utility,
which gets its water from the Indiana American Water Company, would be more
beneficial to the county than the option of having the area serviced by the
Damon Run Conservancy District.
Trout said according to documents filed in January with the Indiana Utility
Regulatory Commission, Damon Run Conservancy in the year 2010 saw a negative
amount of $3,170,576 in its balance for the year.
Heads of the Damon Run Conservancy District and a few Liberty Twp. residents
presented an opposing view to the County Council in April, saying they have
confidence that the conservancy district is capable of servicing new
businesses in the corridor since the district is not even running at
one-fourth its capacity, even with servicing the hospital.
Jack Barko, president of the Damon Run Board of Directors, said he would be
willing to go through a due process with the county to determine if the
conservancy district’s services can better serve the area.
With the commissioners vote to create the CEDIT project, the fate of the
request rests in the hands of the County Council which will review the
matter at its next meeting on July 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the Porter County