Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners OK rural drainage fee and domestic violence awareness campaign

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A tragedy earlier this year involving a worker at the Porter County Juvenile Detention Center has prompted the Center’s director Alison Cox and Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper to start a campaign to educate the public about domestic violence.

Over Mother’s Day weekend, Brianna Hefner Ballor was shot to death at her home in Morgan Twp. by her husband before he shot and killed himself in the presence of their two-year old daughter, Harper said. The incident has “devastated” her family and her co-workers, she said.

Working with The Caring Place of Valparaiso, a shelter for women who have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, and the Porter County Community Foundation, Cox and Harper have launched “Bri’s RACE (Raising Awareness Changes Everything)” and asked the County Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday to allow the County IT Department help get the message out through social media.

“We want to saturate the county with information, but we do want to ask your approval,” Harper said. “(Domestic violence) covers all ages and aspects.”

Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, agreed “social media is a fantastic way to reach people,” as she and her peers said they would support the efforts.

“Go make our county better,” said Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center.

New stormwater fee

In other business, the Commissioners voted 3-0 in favor of the new storm water fee ordinance, which Good and Blaney also voted in favor of yesterday on the Storm Water Management Board, along with County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, who was absent at the stormwater board meeting, voted in favor of the new fee structure Tuesday.

Following procedure, the Commissioners opened a public hearing which saw longtime environmentalists Herb and Charlotte Read give roughly the same comments as they had Monday.

Both asked again about the appeal process in the fee ordinance and how it would relate to land preservation groups like Shirley Heinze Land Trust and the Izaak Walton League of Porter County.

Charlotte Read said she’d like the ordinance to state that groups like these are exempt, saving them the effort of producing evidence that their land is protected at an appeal hearing, but the Commissioners said the appeal process would be more appropriate, so that the storm water board can verify how much or how little an impact a parcel has on the stormwater system.

“It would allow us to take a dive at every piece of property. There are a lot of different things that go into this,” Good said.

Charlotte Read also asked that the County create a frequently asked questions page to help the public understand the stormwater system and fees, something she said that Monroe County has done well.

Two residents from the south part of the county inquired what the fees would be used for.

Explaining that the board wants to make drainage project costs more equitable, Good said he takes pride in the County’s ongoing efforts to resolve issues in the south part of the county along the Kankakee River that were underwater during last summer.

“We have some very good drainage, but that comes at a cost. (The fee structure) is evening out the playing field. It’s time now to get everyone involved because, no matter what, water goes north and it goes south,” Good said.

County Attorney retiring

Before adjourning the meeting, Evans announced that County Attorney Betty Knight has decided to retire.

Knight is a principal at Knight Hoppe Kurnik & Knight Ltd. law firm and for three years has served as attorney for the County Commissioners. She is giving up the County gig to lighten her work load.

“I’m just getting old and with the demands of my law work, I want to let someone younger (be the County attorney), not that someone my age couldn’t do the job,” Knight said.

Evans thanked Knight for her assistance and said the Commissioners will be seeking a new attorney. Anyone interested is encouraged to apply for the job. Knight will continue until a replacement is found.

Insurance TPA switch

The longtime third party administrator of the County’s employee health plan, Stewart C. Miller, will be dropping out at the end of the year.

Mike Anton of Anton Insurance, the County’s insurance service agent, said the County received a 60-day termination notice from Stewart C. Miller and recommended the Commissioners select Benefit Administration Services as the new TPA. It’s the same firm which has represented the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District for the last five years, Anton said.

Troy Scott of R&R Benefits said BAS will be able to adapt to the County’s health plan, which underwent changes to reference-based pricing system to lower costs, and will offer more use of technology.

The technology side was a reason Stewart C. Miller felt it no longer could offer services to the County, Evans said, describing it as more of a “mom and pop shop.”

The Commissioners agreed to start a one-year contract which will be up for review at the end of its term.

County employees should be getting their new insurance cards next week.

County venues

The Commissioners approved a change in the County’s phone company, from ACME to NITCO, could yield an annual savings of $22,000. The Commissioners then asked IT Director Sharon Lippens if she could bring more attention to the county venues.

Good said there is a lot of “white space” on the County website home page that could be filled with advertisements for events at both the Memorial Opera House and the Expo Center. “I think it’s a value add for our venues.”

Lippens said she would make the attempt.

The County Council recently made an attempt to boost marketing for the venues by diverting $150,000 annually of the Innkeeper’s Tax collected by the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission for that purpose starting in 2016, about $60,000 more than in past years.

The Opera House, Expo Center and Museum are to receive $38,120 each, while the County Parks Department is to get $35,640.

Jail security system bid

In other business, Mike Jabo of DLZ Indiana reviewed the bids received for the emergency replacement of the security system at Porter County Jail and said the lowest and most responsive bidder was VideoTec of Highland, with a base bid of $1,062,018 and a three-year lease agreement of over $1 million.

Checking what’s available for funding, County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said there are not enough funds currently in the jail’s general fund budget to cover the lease. The Commissioners put off approving the lease until it’s decided where the funds can be drawn from.

Also the Commissioners approved a $30,997 quote from F. E. Moran to replace alarm detection and sprinkler systems for the County Administration Building, the Courthouse, the North County Complex and the Sheriff’s Department.







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