(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney said a political enemy falsely accused him of being against a $15 million development planned at U.S 20 and U.S 35.
At the end of another back-biting session between the La Porte County Commissioners on Wednesday, Commission President Rich Mrozinski criticized Haney for being the only member of the Planning Commission last week to vote against the project. Haney said he didn't vote against the project.
Instead, Haney said he and two other members of the seven-member governing body voted against a proposal to create a Tax Increment Financing District for the project. Money generated by the increased value of the developed property is captured from within a TIF District and used to pay for things like water and sewer line extensions to the construction site.
TIF money is used strictly within the boundaries of a district, which means none of the new dollars flow into a municipality's general operating budget. Haney said he felt tax money generated by such a development would be better suited for other purposes.
"At a time when we need tax monies for funding and salaries for public safety, like EMS and the Sheriff's Dept, we cannot afford to shortchange the taxpayers or our public coffers right now," Haney said.
Mrozinski said the project consists of a hotel, restaurant, bar, and events center. In addition, the county would pay about $1.5 million to have water and sewer service brought to what's now an undeveloped area.
Mrozinski said property tax revenue from developing the site would increase from about $1,000 to around $500,000 annually. The tax money would go toward financing the cost of providing water and sewer service.
“It’s a very minimal investment by the county when you consider the payoff at the end,” he said.
Mrozinski said having water and sewer service could also result in future developments in the area because of access to utilities.
“This is something that is going to be good for the county,” he said.
Haney and Mrozinski are on opposing sides of a political firestorm resulting in lawsuits filed against La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz on allegations of defamation of character and refusing orders to pay what's now more than $28,000 to Friedman & Associates.
Stabosz has alleged Friedman runs county government and vows not to pay Friedman until he verifies some of the work he's billed the county for was legitimate legal purposes. The Commissioners, however, maintain that the Auditor does not have the right to make that request.