Early County Council vote shows support for Memorial Opera House budget
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent September 25, 2012 8:44PM
Updated: October 27, 2012 6:15AM
VALPARAISO — A break in protocol at the Porter County Council meeting Tuesday threw members off guard and produced a split vote in support of the budget for the Memorial Opera House.
Interim director Michelle Smith presented the council with a $420,248 budget for the coming year, almost $100,000 less than the 2012 budget.
Throughout the budget process, council members have reviewed what department heads presented, but held off on taking a vote until next month.
That changed Tuesday, when Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large, asked for a roll call vote on the opera house, in a show of support for the arts.
The vote split 4-2, with Councilmen Jim Biggs, R-1st District, and Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd District, voting against the budget. Jim Polarek, R-4th District, was not at the meeting.
Biggs, who was critical of how the opera house was run under Brian Schafer, its previous director, said he would support the budget, but not breaking protocol.
“To throw a vote of support your way says a lot,” Biggs said, adding he would hold off until the final budget reading next month to be consistent with the process, “so it’s unanimous, and I believe it will be.”
The council also grudgingly approved $150,000 in local income tax funds for the preliminary stage of an Americans with Disabilities Act transition plan. Whitten voted against the measure.
The plan is a federally mandated survey of county properties for ADA compliance, said Porter County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center. The survey must be complete by the end of the year or the county will lose federal dollars.
Council members questioned the expense and initially asked for more details on the project at another meeting, but pulled back because of time constraints for getting the work done.
Adams said she expected the work, to be done by the Indianapolis firm American Structurepoint, would cost about $116,000, but was asking for more money in case it was needed. Commissioners took five bids for the work, which will include a transition plan for the next several years, and those ranged from $120,000 to $150,000.
Adams said the county would be doing some of the work.
In other business, the council put off a vote on the Valparaiso School Corp. budget until at least Monday, when officials with the district will give a presentation on their budget.
The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the commissioners chambers of the administration building. The budget must be passed by Nov. 1; the council has hired a consulting firm to help them review the document.