Opinion: Mayoral candidates, all officeholders should watch taxpayer situation on parcels up for sale

Recently a few things have come to the attention of some taxpayers of LaPorte County and also the City of LaPorte. The first being the possible pursuit of the purchase of the former Herald-Argus building on State Street. I have been speaking of this for over two years. It is finally being brought to light in the public. I would like to know what the candidates for the mayor of LaPorte feel about this. First, it will remove a parcel that currently pays taxes for the city to operate, and second, it would place more County Government offices in the downtown area. An area that past, current, and future mayors ( I am basing this on their campaign advertising) are trying to revitalize and develop in the hopes of making LaPorte a better home for its citizens.

Second, which is indirectly a byproduct of the first: Recently business owners in the downtown have expressed concern that they are losing parking space and customers due to all the county employees parking downtown. Now I will say first that a portion of this problem may be linked to the construction going on with the overpass on Pine Lake Avenue. In my opinion the larger part of the problem is linked to the sheer numbers of county employees and county (taxpayer)-owned vehicles. If allowed to continue, especially if the Herald-Argus building is purchased, this will only continue to worsen. If the building is purchased I am willing to bet that there will be at least one more county job created.

The third — and in my opinion — largest concern we should all be watching as taxpayers and voters involves once again the county trying to tell a private business what it should or should not do. That business is NIPSCO. Now let me start by saying that no one, myself included, likes paying higher utility bills. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission already keeps a close eye on NIPSCO as well as other public utilities throughout the state. The last thing we need is local politicians and lawyers trying to tell them their job. NIPSCO, as any other private business, has the right to make a profit from the product or service that they produce.

The Board of Directors at NIPSCO have been very good members of this community. They donate and help fund projects for the good of the community. They also employ a large number of residents as well as a few members of the county government. There are a large number of retirees who have served in various functions of government and helped volunteer in the communities of LaPorte County. None of these things — including wages, benefits and retirement packages — could have been done without them making a profit. What they decide to do for the betterment of their business is their decision and theirs alone. Talk of putting a power-generating facility in KIP is a great idea, but one thing the County Government and its attorneys always seem to forget is that the property out there is privately owned. So what happens out there is between the private property owners and private businesses. Now, I would not be surprised if in the near future the County Government does not try to pursue eminent domain on certain parcels.

I feel, as do some other taxpayers, that the biggest concern the County Government has is the possibility of losing the property tax and personal property tax that NIPSCO pays. They have been given a unique opportunity; unlike private citizens who lose their jobs when a plant closes, they have a nine-year window to get their act together and figure out how to solve this problem. They should, again in my opinion, look at shrinking the size of County Government to deal with this impending loss of revenue. They can look at not replacing employees who retire or leave. They can stop creating new departments and they can look closely at the use and numbers of take-home vehicles, to name a couple. They can also pursue the possible outsourcing of departments to gain savings and efficiencies. Recently listening to advertisers on the radio, three departments come to immediate mind: Human Resources, IT and Payroll. Many businesses have found it to be cheaper and better to no longer have these things done in house.

I do not remember the outrage from Government, its attorney or the public when Allis-Chalmers, American Home Foods, Modine, Berkel Slicing or Teledyne when those businesses made a decision to close up shop. It is much easier to go after NIPSCO because it provides a service we need and we have no choice in choosing another utility.  Perhaps it has, along with those other businesses, decided that the taxes it was paying were too high. With NIPSCO being a good neighbor in the community for so many years, I have full faith that it will do the right thing with that lakeshore property. There will be a lot of cleanup and other things done to make that property usable for another purpose. All under the watchful eye of the EPA, IDEM and other federal and state offices. I am also sure that the local government will figure out a way to stick its nose into it. All the while NIPSCO will continue to pay taxes until it is disposed of.

A concerned taxpayer, businessman and voter, Steve Holifield

No comments.

Leave a Reply