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Jerry Davich: Should the Port be paying Portage for services?

Updated: March 24, 2013 6:09AM



Should the Port of Indiana pay the city of Portage for its fire, police and emergency services?

I think so and, of course, so does Portage Mayor Jim Snyder who drove down to Indianapolis on Thursday to discuss the matter with the Indiana Port Commission.

The seven-member bipartisan board, appointed by the governor, essentially told him they would “take the issue under advisement,” I’m told by Jody Peacock, vice president of the Ports of Indiana.

The quasi-governmental enterprise was established in 1961 under Gov. Matthew Welsh in 1970, and the state’s first site opened on the Burns Waterway. Two other Ports of Indiana sites have since opened, in Jeffersonville and Mount Vernon, both on the Ohio River.

Since 1970, the city of Portage has responded to 911 calls as well as any other type of emergency response call, ranging from traffic stops and battery to accidents and suspicious boats in the water. From 2010 to 2012, the Portage Police Department responded to roughly 300 calls there, according to a city-provided figures.

“The Port of Indiana is a small city within our city, posing a high-security risk with international threats and daily calls for service,” stated a letter written by A.J. Monroe, the city’s director of public works, to atate Rep. Chuck Moseley.

Along with state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and state Rep. Rick Niemeyer, Moseley sponsored House Bill 1507, requiring that the Port pay the city a negotiated fee in lieu of taxes. But that bill is unlikely to become a reality unless it gets tacked on to another bill via an amendment.

Earlier this month, a worker for a business at the Port got his arm caught in an industrial conveyor belt, and he had to be extricated and flown by helicopter to a hospital. Who responded to the call? The Portage Fire Department, and the county rescue team.

From 2010 to 2012, the Portage Fire Department responded to 64 calls there, including industrial fires, hazmat issues and emergency medical needs.

“When a fire call or industrial accident occurs in the Port of Indiana, all three Portage Fire Stations respond, requiring the implementation of contingency plans,” Monroe wrote to Moseley.

“The Port of Indiana … is part of who we are,” he wrote. “Over the years, the Port and the businesses within have provided for families in our community — a roof overhead, food on the table, or the resources to send a son or daughter to university.”

But, he added, “Today, it is the city of Portage that needs assistance much like the Port needed our assistance in the past.

“We did not come to the Port or legislators looking for an easy out or a quick way to supplement our community’s general fund. We ask that you give the city of Portage the tools that other industrial complexes in northwest Indiana provide themselves.”

According to its website, the Port consists of 560 acres with 28 tenants including heavy industry, light manufacturing and warehousing businesses. Surely, the Port can come up with the fair amount of money to pay the city for its continued emergency services.

Is it a bit late to make such a request, more than 40 years after the Port’s creation? Possibly, but times are tough these days for all municipalities and Portage’s proposition should be approved.

Hopefully, the Indiana Port Commission will not only take this issue under advisement, but also do the right thing under the watchful eyes of our new governor.

Attention parents

With all the potential perils facing children these days, wouldn’t it be helpful to attend a free workshop to protect our youth? Well, what do you know, a child safety seminar we will be held today, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Led by Valparaiso Police Sgt. Mike Grennes, it will cover everything from Facebook safety and “sexting” to Internet security and bullying.

The free event takes place at Southlake Church of the Nazarene, 7355 East 81st Ave. in Merrillville (just west of Ringo’s Golf Center).

For more info, call the church at 947-2836.

Meaning of a short life

This past Wednesday, I attended the sad and touching funeral for a 2-month-old baby, where I quietly asked myself what purpose or value this child might have had in such a short life.

Well, I discovered it after chatting with the baby’s 19-year-old mother as her infant daughter’s tiny, open white casket sat nearby.

The casket’s lid was signed by family and friends, flanked by flowers older than the baby and a poignant photo collage for “Princess Ava.”

What, in part, was baby Ava’s purpose in just two months of life? Read about it in my Sunday column.

Find more of Jerry’s writings on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and jerrydavich.wordpress.com.



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