Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners exploring ambulance contract options with Porter Hospital

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The often-discussed contract Porter County Government holds with Porter Health Care System for ambulance service is being looked at by both parties, County Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, said at Tuesday’s County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Part of the meeting’s consent agenda contained a response data report for Porter EMS services during 2016.

Good said that members of the press were calling to inquire about the report a few days before the meeting, asking what it might mean for the contract for EMS services. He said a discussion about considered revisions for the contract will take place at a future meeting but currently the Commissioners are gathering data.

“This has been a hot button topic with a lot of questions (by County officials) about it,” Good said. “With the response data report we got for fiscal year 2016, it gives us a bunch of information on ambulance service calls and other data that we have taken a look at.”

The Commissioner board in 2014 voted to extend the ambulance contract for five years to receive a savings of more than $1 million with the hospital freezing its rate at $750,000 instead of increasing it to $1 million.

Members of the Porter County Council last year, including current Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, said they were caught off guard to learn of the extension and argued for more discussion on what other options were possible.

Good said new discussions need to be held now that the County is moving on an 800-megahertz communications system upgrade for emergency response agencies.

“We are taking a step back and look at it from a holistic standpoint. The ambulance contract is just one part of this re-look and this whole picture look at our whole 911 situation,” Good said.

He added that he and County Attorney Scott McClure have had dialogue with Porter Health officials which have been “very positive.”

“We learned a lot of things. We are going to continue to meet and move forward to resolve this issue and come up with an outcome that is good for Porter County and is good for Porter Hospital,” Good said.

The ambulance contract had been paid for with part of the principal from the sale of the county’s Porter Memorial Hospital in 2007. After the money from the principal was invested into the Porter County non-profit Community Foundation last year, officials planned to pay the contract using cumulative capital development funds. However, McClure said, the state has cut the County’s CCD funds and the County Council will need to decide in the next few months where to draw more funds from in order to satisfy the contract.

National Lakeshore

parcels vacated

The Commissioners signed off 3-0 on a petition by the National Lakeshore to vacate three subdivision right-of-ways within the National Lakeshore -- Dunewood Subdivision, Hawleywood Subdivision and Pottawatomie Vista.

Director of the Department of Development and Stormwater Management Robert Thompson said these right-of-ways, located off Tremont Rd. in Westchester Twp., were included in the discussion from 2012 of County roads to close within the Lakeshore. There however has been no ordinance yet to follow up on vacating the parcels, Thompson said.

“The Lakeshore owns all the lots in these right-of-ways and has tried to vacate them themselves but this would be the quickest and easiest way to do it,” Thompson said

There are no structures remaining on the lots, according to Thompson. Pottawatomie Vista has gates around it to keep people from dumping garbage. Hawleywood North has nothing on it and as for Dunewood Subdivision, “If you can find it, good luck. It’s pretty much overgrown,” he said.

RDC, Ethics appointments

The Commissioners rounded out their board appointments for 2017, naming representatives to the County Redevelopment Commission and the Northwest Indiana Shared Ethics Commission.

Chesterton resident and attorney Courtney C. Smith will be the citizen appointment to the Ethics Commission. Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, will also have a seat on the Ethics Commission.

The two appointments to the RDC are Jason Gilliana and Stephen Sularski, both Valparaiso residents.

Good hinted that the Commissioners will be “energizing” the RDC this year. The RDC was created in 2012 but has not yet been able to determine a tax increment financing allocation area. One of the sites talked about is the U.S. 6 corridor around Porter Regional Hospital in Liberty Twp.

Meanwhile, the Commissioners named Robert Gilliana to a seat on the Stormwater Advisory Board.

Zona Wildlife Sanctuary

The Commissioners voted 3-0 in favor of a letter of agreement for Mary Ann Gregg to open and close the Paul C. Zona, Sr. Wildlife Foundation at 601 E. CR 950N in Jackson Twp. on a daily basis for $225 per month.

Good said that Gregg has been receiving pay to open and close the Foundation for “quite some time” but recently there had been a letter, or contract, to substantiate it. The letter will now be placed on record, he said.

Department of Justice grant

In a step forward in the County’s efforts to reduce the inmate population at the Porter County Jail, Chief Public Defender Ken Elwood said the County is to receive $52,000 in grant money from the Department of Justice to be used for bond hearings.

This is a pilot program that the DOJ is establishing for the purpose of releasing non-violent low-risk offenders from jail, Elwood said. An offender will be assessed at initial bond hearings as a high, moderate or low risk, by the judge.

Porter County is one of six counties participating in this pilot program in six pilot states, he said.

The Commissioners voted in favor of creating a fund for the grant money on first reading, 3-0.

Biggs asked Elwood what percentage the County can expect as a release rate for low-risk offenders. Elwood said there are no projections yet as the process is only in the first phase, which is gathering data. He expects to have a better idea by the end of the year.





Posted 2/22/2017




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