Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners still tweaking Council redistricting map

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The Porter County Commissioners are keeping a few County Council members in suspense as Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, announced Tuesday that his board is still reworking its proposal for resetting Council districts.

A hearing for redistricting was listed on the meeting agenda, but Evans said the matter will be postponed until the next Commissioner meeting on Dec. 17 as “additional tweaking” is needed.

The Commissioners are to approve the changes by the end of this year as Indiana election law states that changes for County Council districting must be done in an odd-numbered year.

The board has made an effort to reform the districts after receiving word about a study, done by students and faculty from DePauw University, stating that the County’s districts did not meet the requirements of having balanced population distribution among its four districts.

A public hearing for redistricting was held at the Commissioners’ previous meeting on Nov. 19 when County Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, asked that the Commissioners conduct the process in an open manner with collaboration from the public and said deciding boundaries this late in the year is not fair to prospective candidates who are wanting to file for the 2014 elections in January.

Rivas advised during the Nov. 19 meeting that the data he had showed that the county’s current organization of precincts falls within the state’s limit on population deviation, therefore restructuring would not be a necessity. Rivas is one of the four Council’s district representatives up for re-election in 2014 who could be affected by the changes.

County Democratic Chairman Jeff Chidester, who was in attendance on Nov. 19, said he would have liked to see maps of configurations the Commissioners, whose board is dominantly Republican, propose so he and others could make comments.

Although he feels that the Commissioners are not being as open as he would like, Chidester said he recognizes that the Commissioners are charged by statute to decide the council districts and can establish any set-up as long as it is within the parameters of the population requirements.

“If they find they are in the right, it’s their prerogative,” said Chidester.

Meanwhile, Duneland School Board member and former state legislator Ralph Ayres, in attendance Tuesday, told the Chesterton Tribune after the meeting that, according to his research, the last time that Porter County refashioned its Council districts was in 2001 after the 2000 census was released. The districts were “equal for the most part,” Ayres said, but population shifts have taken place.

Minutes from a December 2011 Commissioner meeting indicate the topic of redistricting was brought up and discussed with the directors of the County Voters Registration office. The Commissioners tabled the discussion to January 2012 only to learn then that the state would not permit redistricting in an even-numbered year.

Insurance plan changes

The Commissioners approved 3-0 adjustments to the health plan option offered to county employees, including a health savings account.

Employees Benefits Specialist for Anton Insurance Leigh Westergren said that due to an “obscure” provision in the Affordable Care Act, single carriers of the plan would see their deductibles increase from $2,000 to $2,500 while those who have their families on the plan would see their deductibles reduced from $4,000 to $3,500.

Another change to the plan would allow employees with flexible spending accounts to carry over $500 from one year to the next. Previously, employees had a 30-day grace period to spend any unused funds.

The Commissioners also extended the employee’s open enrollment to Dec. 21 now that changes have been made.

Westergren also reported that last month’s filed claims came in at two percent less than expected.

Safe Schools director

In other business, Juvenile Detention Director Allison Cox announced that the director/coordinator for the Porter County Safe Schools Commission will be retiring her post. The Commissioners agreed to pay $30,000 out of their budget under contractual services for the successor to start next year.

Cox said the new director will perform the same tasks, such as conducting a safety assessment for every school in the county and coordinating the commission and subcommittees’ activities.

Also Tuesday:

-- The ordinance establishing the health department as administrator of the antabuse system was passed on second reading. Health Board attorney David Hollenbeck said the system will now be easier for the 80 participants who will no longer have to make the extra trip to the prosecutor’s office to pay the fee. Fees will be taken at the health department.

-- About $15,000 worth of improvements will be done at the Memorial Opera House to restore the orchestra pit and windows.

-- A memorandum of understanding was approved for the County Recorder’s new eRecording services.

-- The Commissioners set their meeting schedule for next year. They will continue to meet the first and third Tuesday of the month at 1 p.m.



Posted 12/4/2013