Parks foundation says putting animal shelter at Porter County park could cause problems
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent September 13, 2013 6:28PM
County commissioners have earmarked $1.5 million for a new facility to replace the current Porter County Animal Shelter, and an anonymous donor has offered up another $1 million. | Post-Tribune File Photo
Updated: October 17, 2013 6:14AM
VALPARAISO – A proposal to put the Porter County Animal Shelter at Sunset Hill Farm County Park has the president of the Porter County Parks Foundation howling about what the facility might mean for the foundation’s non-profit status and its participation in a federal conservation program.
“None of the politicians asked us. They just did it. It’s definitely a lack of due diligence. They didn’t know we had control of the property and didn’t know we had it in the conservation program,” said David Yeager, the foundation’s president, adding the shelter could cost the foundation its non-profit status. “We’re not against it; we’re just against their location.”
The foundation board will discuss the proposal at 2 p.m. Thursday in Room 307 of the County Administration Building, 155 Indiana Ave.
Among the things at stake is the $3,000 the foundation receives for participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program.
The Board of Commissioners announced at their Aug. 20 meeting that they would approach the park board about using land at the county-owned park for a new shelter.
Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said she doesn’t understand what would have to be paid back, since the park foundation just started a new agreement for this year.
“I don’t think that’s a real road block,” she said.
Commissioners have earmarked $1.5 million for a new shelter, and an anonymous donor has offered up another $1 million. There also has been discussion about putting the shelter at Ind. 130 and Ind. 149, on land owned by the county, though commissioners said they liked Sunset Hill because of its central location.
“At least it’s moving forward,” Blaney said of the long-stalled plans for a new shelter.
A petition on www.change.org in support of a new shelter at Sunset Hill already has garnered 535 signatures, and includes a letter to the park board and the foundation in support of that location.
But that may not be enough to sway the foundation.
The parks foundation used to own the entire park and has, over time, turned the land over to the park board, Yeager said, though the foundation still owns two parcels at the park, one at the southeast corner of U.S. 6 and Meridian Road and a second parcel east of there.
The second parcel, which is being considered for the shelter, is in the reserve program, and has been for more than 10 years. Under the terms of the program, Yeager said, the foundation receives a little more than $3,000 for its participation each year.
“It makes sense to sign up for it because we use the money for public purposes. It would be derelict not to do it,” he said.
If the foundation pulls out of the program, the money paid to the program would have to be paid back, plus interest, Yeager said, though he did not know if that would be for just the current year or for the entire time the land has been in the program.
The park board owns more than 300 feet of frontage along U.S. 6 between the two parcels owned by the foundation, though Yeager said even that might not be suitable because “every time an ambulance goes by there, the dogs are going to start howling,” which would bother the neighbors.