Porter County Council moves to create foundation for hospital sale proceeds
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent May 28, 2014 10:08PM
Updated: June 30, 2014 1:03PM
VALPARAISO — The Porter County Council voted unanimously Wednesday to move forward with plans to set up the county’s own community foundation to handle part of the $159 million in proceeds from the sale of the county hospital.
The next step is a unanimous vote by the county Board of Commissioners, because no decision can be made on the proceeds without the full vote of both bodies.
While council attorney Scott McClure has received information from two existing community foundations and three investment firms interested in handling the proceeds, Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd District, preferred the county get its own foundation going.
“To me, it comes down to accountability,” Rivas said, adding that comes with a foundation established by elected officials. “To hand it over to a foundation without accountability makes no sense to me.”
The rest of the council concurred.
“We bleed money by not getting this invested,” said Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large, adding starting a county foundation does not preclude using an existing foundation, “but we need to get the ball rolling.”
In other business regarding the hospital, the council will meet on June 5 for preliminary determination of whether the new facility, Porter Regional Hospital at Indiana 49 and U.S. 6 in Liberty Township, is in compliance with the terms of a 10-year tax abatement.
“I don’t believe the hospital is in substantial compliance,” said Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st District.
Under the terms of the abatement, which the council granted in 2009, the hospital had to build a structure of $130 million or more.
Assessor Jon Snyder has said the value of the hospital in 2013, the first full year it was open, was $244.5 million, but hospital officials are appealing that value with the state, claiming the hospital is worth $39 million.
“They can’t have it both ways,” Whitten said.
McClure said hospital officials filed the forms requesting the tax abatement be activated in the past couple of weeks. The abatement actually should be in its third year, but hospital officials are just now asking for it to start.
The hospital can ask for the abatement to be applied retroactively, though Whitten said he would vote against it.
At next week’s meeting, the council can set a hearing with hospital officials, McClure said. If the council ultimately passes a resolution that the hospital is not in compliance with the abatement, that will trigger a court appeal process.