Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners eye $1 million upgrade for County Admin Bldg

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Hoping to blend in with the rest of downtown Valparaiso, the Porter County Commissioners announced Tuesday they are seeking to rehabilitate the front entrance of County Administration Building at 155 Indiana Ave., at a cost of about $1 million.

Preliminary renderings revealed at Tuesday’s Commissioners meeting show a central walkway from the corner of Washington St. and Indiana Ave. with railings on each side. The sidewalk will have a gradual slope rising up to the front door with no steps.

To the south, trees will be planted and strung with lights to give a lit canopy effect like what the City of Valparaiso has downtown with nearby Central Park area, said Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center.

“The sense of arrival, as we call it, is everything,” said Good, borrowing a phrase commonly used in the hotel industry, which he works in professionally.

“That is something we need to do a little bit better job of doing at this building.”

The new entrance will adhere to ADA standards, making it accessible for citizens with limited mobility, and is a big part of the design.

“I’ve sat in this chair and watched people struggle to get to the door for years,” said Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South. “I like to be moving ahead with something that has railings, a ramp, and it should be so much easier to navigate.”

The entrance currently is a tiered series of steps that, as Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, pointed out, are crumbling. It has not received any major improvements since the building opened more than 20 years ago.

“I like the drawing. It’s allowing the public to use space that all we are doing now is walking over,” he said. “Much of this is designed in a safety factor for our older residents.”

Enhancements will also be done around the parking garage on the south side of the building leading to an entryway. The garage then can be made available for parking during downtown events, Good said.

No money has been allocated yet for the reconstruction. The Commissioners will need to discuss a funding mechanism with the County Council.

“Our budget on this is $990,000. We want it to be under $1 million. That’s our goal,” said Good.

American Structurepoint is doing the redesign for $112,000 in a general services agreement, which the Commissioners approved 3-0.

The building should be something that residents can be proud of, Good said. “Your buildings really signify who you are as a community. The (buildings) say who you are as a county and we take that very seriously.”

Internet usage policy to be revamped

One of the other bigger discussion points Tuesday was a report by County ITS Director Don Wellsand on how County employees are using the internet.

Wellsand warned the Commis-sioners about potential security threats to the system. A threat protection trial system was installed with Cisco’s system last month, Wellsand said, and “caught a lot of things trying to get into our network.”

In the last week of December, the IT Department removed 358,932 threats that were existing on employee computers.

The price tag to protect against threats would be $17,965 for one year, Wellsand said. Three years of maintenance would be over $43,000, but would save the County money in the long run, he said. Employees are currently spending 10 to 20 hours per week tracking threats, Wellsand said.

The ITS department also installed an email filter that stops many spam messages.

All employees have access to the internet and about 60 have full access which means they can navigate it just as freely as they do at home, Wellsand said.

After an inspection, Wellsand said he found out twelve of the most visited websites on the County’s internet server included sites like Amazon that people access for video and music. Facebook was the third most visited site which also includes videos and chat features. Others included Google Play and

“These are the types of things we are seeing on our network,” Wellsand said.

The total emails for 2016 were 5,021,659. Wellsand said only about 40 percent of those were business related. The remaining 60 percent were for personal use.

Also, Wellsand found that of the 550 employee email addresses, only about 350 actually logged in last year. He suggested that it be decided with the department heads whether the email accounts not relevant or being used should be gotten rid of.

Wellsand said the 10-year old server needs an upgrade this year. Each of those mailboxes would cost $65 each, which would be about $35,000 if all 550 are updated.

“Based on the numbers (Wellsand) has given us, it’s crystal clear we have a problem,” said Good, who said he asked Wellsand last week to give a report. “This is something we, with the department heads and officials, are going to have to figure out how we are going to rein this in.”

It’s not only a cost to the County but it is also creates the threat that someone could hack the system, Good said. He and the other Commissioners said it also shows that employees are not making efficient use of their time on the internet.

Good said he intends for the board to come up with new internet usage policies. Biggs said he agrees there should be consequences for those who do not abide by the policy.

“This is nothing but a management issue, folks,” Good said, imploring the department heads to also take action.

The money that the County is spending on preventing malware should be spent on long overdue upgrades to the County’s IT system.

The County’s internet access, powered by NetNitco, goes through the Administration Building, Wellsand said. The data is saved on a backup server in case NetNitco should lose its power.




Posted 1/11/2017




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