La Porte Hospital project moves forward

August 9, 2018

La PORTE — The City of La Porte Common Council will vacate portions of Washington Street, right-of-way along Teegarden Street and an alley as part of the creation of the new La Porte Hospital.

The ordinance introduced Monday stated the vacated portion of Washington Street will be from Tyler to Teegarden streets. The vacated Teegarden Street right-of-way will be from State Street right-of-way until the railroad right-of-way. The vacated alley exists between Teegarden and Tyler streets.

No one spoke against vacating the property when the matter was opened for public comment.

The ordinance stated there were no property owners abutting the public ways to be vacated.

The ordinance also states:

• “The vacation will not hinder the growth or development of the City of La Porte”

• “The vacation will not make access to the land of any party by means of public way difficult or inconvenient.”

• “The vacation will not hinder the public access to church, school, public building or place.”

• “The vacation will not hinder the use of any public way.”

The traffic commission has already unanimously approved of the vacations. In addition, each of the adjacent property owners have been notified, which were Pennsylvania Lines, Norfolk Railroad and the La Porte County Commissioners.

Commission Attorney Doug Biege only asked for language to be added to the resolution stating that access must be allowed to and from La Porte County EMS’s base as long as they are operational from that specific site at the corner of State and Tyler streets.

La Porte Hospital stated the Washington Street area would be used as a mechanical yard and that the new hospital’s location would be approximately 140 feet away from the railroad, a similar distance to the current hospital’s location.

The ordinance will be read again at the next common council meeting on Aug. 20.

In other matters pertaining to La Porte Hospital, a resolution was unanimously approved by the common council to approve the hospital’s request to use the urban enterprise zone investment deduction credits within a future tax increment (TIF) district.

Bert Cook, representing the La Porte Urban Enterprise Association, said using the deduction would save the hospital 65 percent on their tax liability over the 10 year eligibility period.

Cook said it is normal procedure to come before the common council to request permission when a business intends to utilize an investment deduction on property within a TIF district. Currently, however, the location of the new hospital doesn’t fall within a TIF district, but does fall within an urban enterprise zone.

“However, strategically we believe the redevelopment commission will look to create an allocation area in the future that will take place before the first full assessment of the hospital,” Cook said.

Cook later added he was unsure if this new allocation area would be an expansion of a current TIF district to encompass the new hospital or the creation of a new district entirely.

City Planner Beth Shrader later clarified that although the council approved the deduction, the city doesn’t have a say in whether the hospital can use the deduction credits or not because it’s granted to them by statute.

“As long as they are in the zone, they are eligible,” she said.

After the 10 year deduction period, in years 11-25, the hospital will start paying into the TIF which means property taxes above the base assessment amount go toward the redevelopment commission. These funds can be used for improvements and betterment projects within the TIF district.

While all members of the council supported the resolution, Councilman Joe Mrozinske expressed concern over the resolutions wording, which stated “La Porte Hospital’s capital investment of $125 million for a new 200,000 square foot facility is expected to retain approximately 1,000 jobs.”

Mrozinske questioned the accuracy of the 1,000 jobs portion of the statement, asking if there was documentation to confirm this number.

“I’ve had a lot of people contact me in the past regarding cutbacks. We’ve lost a lot of jobs over the years at the hospital,” he said.

Cook stated due to the incentive’s 10 year term, the exact number of jobs couldn’t be documented at this time because the hospital would have all 10 years to meet any proposed numbers.

“Beyond that, the investment deduction from the UEA doesn’t have a jobs requirement, that’s just the reality of the way the program is set up,” Cook said. “But I’m confident that if the hospital says they’re going to retain 1,000 jobs than that’s exactly what they’re going to do.”

Mrozinske agreed from a financial standpoint the resolution makes sense, but said he’s just fielded many complaints from citizens about the hospital. Common complaints, he said, referenced lack of heart and trauma centers along with failure to retain physicians.

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