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Porter County Council pulls Opera House project funding, amid concern with possible changes

rendering of the Memorial Opera House and sheriff's residence renovation and expansion plans
rendering of the Memorial Opera House and sheriff's residence renovation and expansion plans

Funding has once again been pulled from the Memorial Opera House renovation and expansion.

Last year, money for the project was removed from Porter County's plans for its share of American Rescue Plan funds, only for the county council to add it back in several months later. Then on Tuesday, many of those same council members voted to remove the allocation. They want the project to move forward, but they worry the county commissioners are trying to scale it back.

"If we leave that $5 million there, they can come up with some kind of a plan. Two of them will vote it in, and we have no say in it," explained council member Greg Simms.

The existing proposal would not only restore and preserve the Opera House — but would also renovate the former sheriff's residence and build a connector between the two. That would open up space in the Opera House lobby and make both buildings accessible to those with disabilities.

Council President Jeremy Rivas said he wouldn't support a new plan unless all of those needs were met. "If we're just going to, you know, do what we did 10 years ago, tuck point a little bit, fix a few windows, put some caulk in it, we'll be right back here in 10 years," Rivas added.

Council members Red Stone and Andy Bozak voted against pulling the funding. Stone worried the council and commissioners were heading for a political stalemate, at the expense of the county.

"It's not going to get resolved because if those two [commissioners] just want to do a major rehab and say the majority here wants to do an expansion, who loses? The Memorial Opera House," Stone said.

The current plan would cost about $7.5 million. The county would've contributed $5 million from American Rescue Plan money. The remainder would've come from the Opera House Foundation.