St. Joseph County Council tables resolution on Portage Manor closure

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 11:54 PM EDT
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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - During a meeting Tuesday night, the St. Joseph County Council voted to table a resolution on the closure of Portage Manor.

It is an issue that has been up for discussion for a while now.

Since the county will likely not fund it moving forward, private developers are potentially interested in taking over ownership.

The council will delay a vote for 60 days, which will give private developers time to come up with viable plans.

“When this opportunity was presented to me, I just felt like it was a message from God... Whoever is there stays there... And just to supplement the income with private payers, or just different ways we can figure out. But I know that it is workable, and it is something that is definitely for sure doable,” said Dr. Sylvana Atallah.

“I’ve known Dr. Atallah for several years. I’ve known her to be intelligent, thoughtful, and caring. If she sees the need, the need is there, and she’ll get it done. I’m just asking you to hit pause. And think about it. Allow her proposal to come forward before you make a groundbreaking decision,” said one resident.

During public comments, people said things like, “Some want to know why maintenance wasn’t kept up all these years” and “the program has been running efficiently for years, and residents deserve to stay in the building.”

St. Joseph County Attorney Mike Misch said it would cost roughly $40 million for a new building and the transition phase but said this is not feasible.

There has also been debate on the condition of the building.

Meantime, the County Council has hired a private company if residents end up needing to be re-housed.

“Well, it’s a very emotional issue, and we have been taking this very seriously. We have been talking to family members, and we are as concerned as they are...I wanted to have a safe place for our residents. And that’s my biggest issue. A safe place for them,” said St. Joseph County Council Member Joe Thomas.

“And it was a really hard decision to make because these are people we care about. This really is a great place in our community. People love it, and they know it. The mission is important...We don’t feel like we are the best situated to be doing healthcare. And we know that private organizations can probably do this much better than we can,” said St. Joseph County Council Member Amy Drake.

The council also tabled $3 million of American Rescue Plan funding for 60 days.

This money would go toward Portage Manor to help with things like retention bonuses for staff.