Laura believes in discovering common ground with her colleagues in the Commissioners’ Office and on the Council, and then working hard with others to achieve the common goals.
- Investment of over $30 million.
- Renovation of Administration Center Plaza
- Renovation of Expo Center
- Interior build of 157 Franklin St to serve as a courthouse annex and 911 call center
- Renovation of Courts building at the North County Annex and construction of new building to house health department, clerk, Portage Township Assessor, Veteran’s services. Through a cost sharing agreement with Portage Township, it also includes the Portage Township Trustee & Portage Township food pantry.
- Preservation of exterior of historic Valparaiso Courthouse, installation of all new windows, increased security compliant with Department of Homeland Security requirements and work on interior to make it ADA accessible.
- Building of new Animal Shelter
- Building of New South Haven Highway Department/Storm Water Substation
- Additional Information
- All projects completed while keeping County Tax Rate Flat
- All Contracts were awarded in compliance with the County’s Fair Bidding Ordinance.
- Used union contractors
- Created or supported hundreds of union jobs.
- Recognized by the Indiana, Illinois, Iowa Foundation For Fair Contracting for creative leveraging of the Foundation Funds for the capital improvement projects without a tax increase and supporting building trade jobs.
Taxes & Budget
- County’s property tax rate has remained flat over the past 7 years.
- Income tax rate is second lowest in the state.
- 37% of the revenues from the Income Tax are returned to homeowners through a homestead property tax credit, reducing annual property taxes payments by approximately 8%.
- Have NOT enacted a wheel tax for unincorporated Porter County.
- Reduced Employee Health Insurance costs by $6 million annually while increasing benefits.
- Centralized purchasing to control costs
- Renegotiated contracts to achieve savings.
- Established an internal Facilities Management Department to maintain county owned buildings, reducing the reliance on costly third party contractors.
- Reduced Workmen’s Compensation costs by establishing internal safety programs.
- Aggressively seek federal and state grants.
- Through conservative budgeting and cost control, will carry over $4 to $5 million surplus in our general fund to 2021.
- Through prudent management of the Porter County Government Foundation, we have established a $7.5 million rainy day fund.
- Flat lined budgets for 2021.
- With the potential revenue declines in 2022 and beyond due to COVID, we are well prepared to weather these lean years without increasing taxes.
- All infrastructure projects have been completed while keeping the county’s tax rate flat.
- Storm Water
- Investment of $20 Million
- Completed over 330 storm water repair, construction or reconstruction projects
- Established storm water department led by professional engineers.
- Saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by doing engineering work in-house.
- Contracts awarded in compliance with County’s Fair Bidding Ordinance
- Established more impactful regulations to assure that new developments adhere to storm water guidelines.
- Established Bridge Rating System
- Investment of nearly $8 million
- Repaired or replaced 40 of the county’s 128 bridges
- Another 10 bridges are planned in next three years totaling $14.7 million.
- Contracts awarded in compliance with County’s Fair Bidding Ordinance.
- Established road rating system
- Achieved savings through reduced reliance on outside contractors & brought more work in-house.
- 270 miles of road preservation work completed, which is approximately 35% of the county’s 815 miles of roads.
- Achieved the road preservation work without enacting a wheel tax.
- Upcoming Projects
- Extension of Willowcreek Road from 700 North to US Highway 30, creating a much needed north-south transportation corridor in the western part of the County. Funding has been secured for the Environmental and Route Plan for 700 North to Highway 30 as well as the funding for Engineering for 700 North to State Road 130.
- Improvement of the Calumet Trail.
- Established cost-sharing program with municipal public safety departments on the purchasing of new 800 MHz radios.
- Established data driven cost sharing arrangement with municipalities for animal control and sheltering.
- Established agreements with municipalities on share road maintenance and improvements.
- Established a cost sharing agreement with the Portage Township Trustee and Portage Township Food Pantry for the construction and shared use of a new building at the North County Annex.
- Established agreement with Twin Creeks Conservancy District in which the county would assume responsibility for the South Haven storm water system and the District would pass along the storm water fees it collects from South Haven property owners.
- Installed new, professional leadership at Emergency Management Agency. Brought current emergency policies, procedures and preparedness plans, purchased new emergency response equipment.
- Invested in 21st century E-911 Center technology and new call center to assure a professional response and timely dispatch for emergency calls.
- Established robust system of communications between the Highway Department, School Superintendents, internal public safety departments and the public at large during winter weather events.
- Stepped up code enforcement and either remedy or tear down unsafe buildings in unincorporated Porter County.
Transparency, Access & Accountability
- Launched a redesigned and mobile friendly County website in September 0f 2019 through which the public can directly and easily engage with county departments and services online, via email and by phone.
- During the first five months of the COVID period, we had nearly 900,000 website visits, an increase of 331% from the same period in 2019. Those visits resulted in nearly 1.8 million pageviews for COVID information and access to county services, a nearly 400% increase for the same period in 2019.
- Meeting calendars, agendas, minutes and videos of all public meetings are available for public view on our website.
- Through the website, citizens can also sign up to get email and text notifications of meetings, agendas, minutes and videos as they are posted.
- Launched 4 other county websites for Memorial Opera House, Animal Shelter, Expo Center and Storm Water Management offering online services.
- Established proactive communications with the public through increased use of social media platforms. In addition to the Porter County Government Facebook pages, there are an additional 13 other Facebook pages for county departments, venues, officeholders and services.
- Led the efforts to join the Northwest Indiana Shared Ethics Commission and mandated ethics training for all county employees.
- Awarded the Frank O’Bannon Sunshine Award for protecting and enhancing the concept of open government.
- Storm Water Runoff: Has a direct impact on Lake Michigan & Kankakee River watersheds as well as those who rely on wells. The considerable investment we have made, and will continue to make, through our storm water program be a positive impact on water quality.
- Vice President of the Porter County Recycling & Waste Reduction District, I work directly with the department to increase public education on the three R’s – Reduce, Re-use & Recycle, with greater emphasis on REDUCE. We have expanded the number of public recycling drop off locations, compost sites and household and hazardous waste drive through collections.
- We have begun refitting our buildings with LED lighting, are examining the use of solar energy, and have worked with the Sheriff’s Department to purchase hybrid vehicles to reduce emissions.
- Brought together frontline departments, including our Communications team, Health Department, Sheriff’s office, Emergency Management Agency, 911 Center and municipal governments to assure shared resources and a coordinated public response.
- Developed and implemented plan for County buildings and employees to comply with Indiana’s Stay At Home orders which included closing of our offices and venues, staggered work schedules and work from home options for our employees and implement CDC guidelines for maintaining infection controls within our facilities.
- Directed enhancements to our County website to offer continued online, phone an email access to vital county services while our offices were closed. During closure, we experienced a 331% increase in website visits to access services.
- Quickly pivoted to virtual official meetings to assure the continuity of government and streamed those meetings live on County Facebook pages. Assured employees, contractors and vendor were paid which helped support our local economy.
- To assure transparency and keep our citizens informed, I directed the development and implementation of a COVID-19 Dashboard on the County website to provide the public with daily comprehensive data and trends. We were the first county in northern Indiana to make this important information available. Since launch, the dashboard has been viewed over 1.4 million times.
- Directed the coordinated use of numerous County Facebook pages, including Porter County Government, Porter County Central Communications, Porter County Emergency Management, Alert Porter County, Memorial Opera House, Porter County Animal Shelter and Porter County Expo Center to assure that we were speaking with one voice in providing critical information for our citizens.
- In collaboration with all of our department heads, I directed the development and implementation of a reopening plan which included COVID testing of nearly 900 employees, procurement of personal protective equipment, building and placing sneeze guards in all offices with a public service counter, COVID-19 protection guidelines for employees, enhanced disinfectant cleaning of our buildings, as well as requiring temperature testing and wearing of mask for all citizens who enter our buildings.
- Partnered with local State Representatives and Senators and testified before House Committee to pass legislation that gave Porter County the ability to establish and fund the Porter County Government Non-Profit Charitable Foundation with the $150 million received from the sale of the old hospital.
- Thru the Foundation, we can invest the money in a broader range of investment options than previously allowed.
- Under the law, annual investment returns of up to 5% can be used for any government purpose with any returns in excess of the 5% to be added back to the original $150 million principal.
- Any expenditures from the Foundation’s principal requires the unanimous approval of the Foundation Board, comprised of the three Commissioners and seven Council members.
- With the returns that exceeded 5%, nearly $25 million has been added back to the original principal.
- With the portion of returns that can be used by county government, we have:
- Offset the cost of the capital improvement projects to keep the County’s tax rate flat.
- Funded government operations to keep the County’s tax rate flat.
- Began building a rainy day fund that is sufficient to carry us through 3 years of lower returns. Currently, we have $7.5 million in that fund
- Continued to provide a total of $1.2 million annually to Opportunity Enterprises, Council on Aging and Family & Youth Services Bureau.
Quality of Life
- Invested nearly $20 million in South Haven to repair and replace existing storm water infrastructure as well as repairing or replacing roads, curbs and sidewalks. South Haven is the single largest unincorporated affordable residential community in the state of Indiana. With these investments, South Haven no longer be affordable but less desirable. It will be affordable with a renewed quality of life.
- Continue fine-tuning our Unified Development Ordinance that provides for residential and commercial growth while maintaining a combination of rural, urban, commercial and open space that makes Porter County so unique. Growth is positive when managed, and our Unified Development Ordinance is the road map for managed growth.
- Continue our investments in updating our stormwater infrastructure to reduce flooding and improve the quality of stormwater runoff into our Lake Michigan and Kankakee River watersheds.
- Continue to step up code enforcement and either remedy or tear down unsafe buildings in unincorporated Porter County.
- Working to complete the routing, refurbishment and repair of the Calumet Trail. Last month, the Commissioners hired an engineering firm to design of Phases 1 and 2 of the Calumet Trail from Mineral Springs Rd. to NICTD’s Dune Park Train Station. Within the next few months, we will have a conceptual plan of the new trail.
- Implemented a nearly 80% reduction in fees associated with laying fiber optic cable to expand broadband service to residents in rural areas.
- When the County owned historic Memorial House was in danger of permanent closure, Laura lead the efforts in finding funding to keep their doors open. Recruited and installed a professional management team and gave them the tools and resources they needed to succeed. She also worked to revive the moribund Memorial Opera House Foundation. Over the past few years, the Memorial Opera House has once again become one of Porter County’s cultural gems with successive sold out theatrical productions as well as both local and national concert acts. In addition to improving this historic landmark, Laura will continue to assure that the Opera House will return to continue their success when it is safe to reopen.