Porter County joins ethics commission
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent March 19, 2014 6:18PM
Dog and cat food lines the walls as board members Sue Robuck and Amanda Gucciardo work at an open house at Kibble Kitchen Pet Pantry in Portage, Ind., on Sept. 29, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 21, 2014 6:59PM
VALPARAISO — The Porter County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission.
“I think the public, with everything they’re reading in the paper, needs to know this is possible,” Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said.
Blaney, who brought up the matter, said the ethics commission fosters ethical behavior among elected officials through education and training.
Several county departments in recent months have come under the scrutiny of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Other members, according to the ethics commission’s website, include several Lake County communities, as well as LaPorte County.
Joining the commission costs $5,000, and dues are $3,000 every year after that, Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, said.
“I know there are those among any group of employees that think you either have (ethics) or you don’t,” Evans said. “But this puts the practice in place.”
In other business, commissioners unanimously approved the first tax increment financing district instigated by the county around Porter County Regional Airport.
The district offers a split, with 60 percent of new revenue going back to the district for improvements, including projects at the airport, and the other 40 percent of the new revenue going back to the affected taxing units. That agreement involved the East Porter School Corporation, since the Washington Township schools are within the district. The school corporation will receive additional grant money from the redevelopment commission to make up for any lost revenue.
“ TIF is a great development tool but we don’t want to abuse it,” Blaney said. “We’re trying to get out of a hole.”
The district now goes back to the redevelopment commission for a public hearing, scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 17 in the commissioners chambers, and then returns to the commissioners to approve its geographic boundaries by ordinance, said Dan Botich, with Cender and Company, which has worked on the financial details of the district for the redevelopment commission.
The redevelopment commission initially explored a TIF district around Porter Regional Hospital, at Ind. 49 and U.S. 6 in Liberty Township, but pulled back because of concerns about the impact on the Duneland schools.
Those have since been allayed because of the agreement with the East Porter schools, sparking a renewed interest in a TIF around the hospital.
“As soon as we get this one out of the way, let’s get back and revisit the hospital,” Evans said.