Porter commissioner candidates focus on jobs
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 7, 2012 10:04PM
Laura Blaney | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 8, 2012 10:40AM
Job creation and determining how best to handle the proceeds from the sale of the former Porter hospital are two of the main issues facing the candidates for Porter County’s South County Board of Commissioners seat.
Democrat Laura Shurr Blaney, 44, an at-large member of the Porter County Council from Porter Township, faces political newcomer Mike Heinold, 45, of Morgan Township.
Board of Commissioners President John Evans, a Republican from Chesterton, is unopposed in his bid for a fourth term representing North County.
Blaney, who also served on the county council in 2005 and 2006, is a former biology and chemistry instructor who used to own the Kelsey’s steak houses in Valparaiso and Portage with her husband, Ken. Heinold owns an information technology company; he and his family formerly owned Heinold Feeds.
Blaney said she brings experience in county government to the office, while Heinold said his business experience would help him lead county government in an efficient, responsible manner.
Heinold would like to see a better synergy between the county’s leaders, with the council and the commissioners working together for better solutions to the county’s problems. That includes job creation.
“That’s something I take very seriously,” he said, adding attracting new businesses and the jobs they bring is one way of working against the state’s tax caps and bringing in additional revenue.
Jobs are a focus for Blaney as well, who would like to make it easier for potential businesses to find out what they need to come to the county. The Jobs Cabinet and re-established Redevelopment Commission are part of that process, but she also would like to see a liaison in the planning department to make things more efficient.
“I think the best thing local government can do is make it easier for people,” she said.
The $160 million in proceeds from the sale of Porter hospital, and almost $12 million in interest, put Porter County in a better financial position than a lot of counties, Heinold said. He looks at the principal as an endowment for the county; using the principal would require a unanimous vote of both the commissioners and the council.
The proceeds could be used for economic development.
“There’s a lot of ways to think about that,” Heinold said, adding the money could be invested or used for loans. “It’s a big responsibility for the council and the commissioners.”
Since interest rates now are low, Blaney said patience is key when it comes to the principal from the sale, because once interest rates go up, so will the amount of money the county is making on the principal.
The interest could be spent on infrastructure, which in turn would lead to job creation, she said, noting the county’s agreement to chip in $742,000 for the Chesterton utility corridor, a project she helped support.
“That’s planning for the future,” she said.