Vote delayed on Portage Manor closure

NOW: Vote delayed on Portage Manor closure


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The St. Joseph County Council voted to delay the vote deciding the future of Portage Manor.

Council chambers were packed Tuesday night to hear the decision that will affect over 100 of the county's mentally and developmentally disabled adults.

The vote comes after impassioned pleas from the community to keep the doors of the assisted living facility for disabled residents open. Now, the council has 60 days before the vote is back on the table, and the hope for many is to have a plan in place by then to move forward without closing the facility.

"It's important to me because I have a sister that has lived there for 31 years," said Rebecca Egert, who protested before the council meeting outside the County-City Building. "It is a structured facility, and she's done good there. To put these people, these residents out of this facility, on their own, or even in homes, for them, this is their home, and you're ripping it out from right underneath them."

County commissioners voted to close the facility, saying the county could not afford its upkeep.

"It's also in a condition where we don't want to keep people in that condition," said Commissioner Carl Baxmeyer.

Many in the crowd at Tuesday's meeting said Portage Manor is a successful program for the county's disabled adults and worth continuous investment.

"What action plan did you have? What exit strategy did you do before just making these people go out of their homes?" said Rodney Gadson, president and CEO of the South Bend Tenant Association. "Now this is going to cost the taxpayers even more money."

Even residents lined up for public comment.

"Tomorrow will be 33 years that I've been a resident," said Mark Huffman. "See how well I've been doing, and without Portage Manor, I may not be doing this good at all."

"I don't want to leave, 'cause my friends are there, my roommate is nice, I love it," said resident Karen Simko.

Some on the county council say they want ownership of Portage Manor to go into the private sector.

But one doctor, Sylvana Atallah, said she is interested in being that private buyer of the building and turning it into an assisted living and memory care facility. She says all current residents would stay there and estimates it would take $8 million to renovate Portage Manor.

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