Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners vote to help Sheriff pension fund with hospital interest

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The Porter County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 Tuesday in favor of a suggestion made last month by the County Council to take $441,500 of interest money from the Porter Memorial Hospital sale to help sustain the Sheriff’s Police Pension fund for this year.

The Sheriff’s Department made a request to the County Council at its March 22 meeting for an additional appropriation of $883,000 to PERF in its general fund budget. However, County Auditor Vicki Urbanik advised that there was not enough general fund money to cover it.

County Attorney Scott McClure had said there are two other funding sources available -- unallocated county economic development business tax dollars (CEDIT) or hospital sale interest money. He said it may be best to appropriate half of the funds now and half later once the County receives its tax draws from the spring collection.

Sheriff Dave Reynolds said the general fund budget had a line item for the pension in his previous term as sheriff, but it had been removed. He said the money coming in from the Sheriff’s processing fees is there but is working on a way to fix the accounting with the auditor and clerk’s office for next year’s budget.

Reynolds also asked the County to have their financial advisor make a recommendation.

Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said the Council will make sure it gets a line item. He asked McClure to put a request before the commissioners for the first half of the payout -- $441,500 -- using hospital interest.

Under the County’s home rule, it takes majority votes from both the Commissioner and the Council to spend any interest money from the hospital sale.

The request will go to the Council’s next meeting for its approval.

Animal Shelter trees

Fourteen large trees will be coming down soon at the site of the future County Animal Shelter between the Expo Center and Porter County Jail on Ind. 49.

County Facilities Director Matthew Stechly said three bids received, ranging from $19,500 to $28,000. He recommended the Commissioners accept the $20,000 bid from Glover Tree Service as opposed to the $19,500 bid from Area Tree Service due to some “red flags” and “hearsay” about multiple change orders.

Stechly asked the Commissioners to pay the extra $500 to go with Glover.

County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, did not believe Stechly’s concerns about Area Tree Service justify rejecting the bid that met the requirements.

“Our charge is to pay the lowest and most responsive bidder,” said Evans. “Our hands are kind of tied.” McClure agreed with Evans.

The Commissioners ended up voting 3-0 to accept the bid from Area Tree Service, on a motion made by Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, not exceed $19,500.

Stechly said the tree removal is the last thing that needs to be done before the County Highway Department can finish demolition. “After that, we can break ground,” he said.

Jail generator

Also, the Commissioners approved $15,654 for LionHeart Engineering to troubleshoot the generator serving the Jail and 911 Communications Center that is having transferring issues.

Stechly said the process will involve two 30- to 45-minute periods when the power will be cut so LionHeart can make the repairs.

The 911 center will be powered by back-up batteries during that time but 911 Director C.J. Wittmer told the Commissioners the batteries are older and are only at 60 percent power.

The batteries at full capacity can last for three to four hours, but Mitsubishi would not certify that they will be strong enough for the maximum time of the shutdown, Wittmer said.

Stechley said he will be bringing in a portable generator. The Commissioners told Wittmer they will need to be looking into getting the batteries replaced.

Insurance/Wellness program

The Commissioners meanwhile approved some amended language in their county employee health plan documents to include 3D mammograms, among other things. The language does not change the policy the Commissioners have already approved, said Leigh Westergren, employee benefits specialist with Anton Insurance.

The commissioners also renewed the workman’s compensation policy with Bituminous Insurance Company for rates that will be lower than the expiring ones, Jim Anton said.

Westergren said there will be an added health screening program at the County Administration Building on May 19 and May 20. She provided the Commissioners with health data that will be given to each department to encourage more workers to use the available wellness programs.

In other business:

-- A contract with ACI was approved to produce a trifold document to educate the public about the new stormwater management department, practices and fees. The information will be sent out to residents paying the new stormwater fee in the unincorporated areas of the county a few days before the spring tax bills reach mail boxes, McClure said.

-- Second reading for the St. Andrews rezoning of 4.4-acres for a proposed assisted living and memory care center in Porter Business Park next to Porter Regional Hospital in Liberty Twp. was approved 3-0.

-- A bid from Holley’s Landscaping of $2,375 was chosen for landscape improvements at the Porter County Expo Center grounds to backfill large divots made by vehicles.

-- April 24 to May 1 has been proclaimed as Soil and Water Stewardship Week in Porter County to promote conservation efforts.



Posted 4/8/2016





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