La PORTE — A plan to repurpose the La Porte County Home has gone back to the drawing board.

The La Porte County Board of Commissioners announced at Wednesday’s meeting that the Indiana Housing and Development Authority informed the county last Thursday that it was not chosen as one of the 54 competing projects seeking tax credit awards.

The commission had hoped to use the tax credit funding to repurpose the county home into senior and veteran housing.

With only 17 of the competing projects chosen, and La Porte County not among them, the issue of what to do with the County Home has been sent "back to square one" according to county attorney Shaw Friedman.

A joint work session with both the commission and the La Porte County Council is set to be held at 5:30 p.m. on March 21 to discuss County Home options.

"When we started on this road we saw the reality," said Commissioner Dr. Vidya Kora. "The reality was that the numbers of residents in the County Home was going down significantly and there was not any hope of funding coming from the state through the ARCH program."

Kora said due to the County Home's current state it is difficult to attract new residents due to the lack of private rooms and private baths. Kora said the goal of the commission was to preserve the historic nature of the home while also repurposing it to meet the needs of the community by offering senior and veteran housing.

"Unfortunately, we did not get funded, but I still think it was a good idea for us to pursue it," Kora said.

Kora said he would continue to look for other options to repurpose the facility, including seeing if there were any federal grants available.

"We need to keep trying," Kora said. "We need to look at various options and I think this workshop is a good idea."

One proposed option will also be to sell the County Home, which a recent appraisal listed as being worth $1.71 million for the building and the five-acre property. Kora pointed out, however, that was only the appraised value and the value of any asset is only based on how much someone is willing to pay for it.

"For somebody to come and buy the County Home would be a challenging task, but we are open to all options," Kora said.

Friedman said it was estimated at $7 to 9 million to renovate the County Home and bring it up to code for individual housing units. The senior tax credit was the best shot at saving the home. Grant options will continue to be looked into, but Friedman said, "candidly, there is just not a lot out there in terms of grant dollars for bricks and mortar."

In other matters, the commission approved two separate bids for police vehicles for the La Porte County Sheriff's Department.

The first was for four process server vehicles from Best Ford in Knox at $63,460 and the second was for nine police SUVs from Sauers Ford at $224,838.

In unrelated business, the commission praised county residents for their assistance in the rate case against NIPSCO, which recently settled a proposed 11 percent electric rate increase at 5.4 percent. 

Of the 170 letters received by the utility commission who oversaw the settlement, Friedman said half of the letters were from La Porte County.

"You can't underestimate the impact those letters had from residents and businesses in this county drowning the utility commission in letters of opposition," Friedman said.

Commission President Dave Decker reminded everyone that over the last few years, NIPSCO has pushed for 26 percent increases all together, which the county involvement has held to only an 11.5 percent increase.

"It would've been more than double if we hadn't intervened," Decker said. "It does pay to intervene to protect our citizens from these kinds of rate increases."

In unrelated matters, Bob Young, of the county highway department, reported recent damage on Schultz Road in the pavement was due to a snow plow taking a gouge out of the road.

"I want to clarify it was our trucks that did that damage," Young said, due to ongoing complaints in the area against truck traffic involving construction of a pond.

 

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