Chesterton Tribune



County 911 seeks more hospital money

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It appears that Porter County 911 Communications Center Director John Jokantas has found another use for Porter Memorial Hospital sale interest funds.

As in 2012 when the County used nearly $1 million in interest money to purchase equipment for new transmitting/receiving stations to improve voice and pager systems for local fire departments, the 911 Communications Center would now like to upgrade its own hardware and software systems that are close to 15 years old, using roughly the same amount of interest from the sale of the hospital.

At Tuesday’s Commissioner meeting, Jokantas said the new systems would improve the inter-agency communications between fire, police and EMS services. It would also bolster the inter-operability between the county’s radio systems with LaPorte County’s 911 center in case either center has a system that goes offline and needs a backup.

With improvements in technology, Jokantas said the upgrades at one time would have cost up to $1.5 million but now the cost would be about $800,000, maybe less. He said he should have a more accurate figure to give to the Commissioners in the next three weeks.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said he was on board with the request in light of the tragedies this week with the tornadoes in Oklahoma, cautioning that the same kind of thing could happen here and he would like to see the County ready in case it ever does.

Jokantas agreed saying, “We want to be as prepared as we can be.”

The Commissioners approved the motion 3-0 to use up to $1 million in interest funds, giving Jokantas a little bit of a buffer in case the equipment ends up being more than the anticipated $800,000. The dealer is Motorola. The request will require a majority vote from the County Council before funds are dispersed.

Meanwhile, the Commissioners approved a first reading of an ordinance to create a non-reverting fund for the 911 department to collect and hold on to charitable donations.

Evans also mentioned that the 911 Center’s rainy day fund will carry just three-quarters of the way through 2014. The only other source of income is through the state’s 911 surcharge fees placed on landline phones, cell phones and prepaid phone cards and Evans said he would encourage the state 911 advisory board to raise the fees.

That board has the authority to increase surcharge fees by 10 cents every year.

Sheriff makes a choice

Making a brief appearance Tuesday, County Sheriff David Lain said he is now able to “put a close on the arduous process” of finding a medical staff provider for the jail. He said he and the search committee have “mutually agreed” on Correct Care Solutions of Nashville, Tenn.

The company and the sheriff’s police are now in final negotiations on the hiring and what the costs will be.

Lain said he should have the contracts ready for the Commissioners in the next few weeks and he is pushing for July 1 as the deadline to have the new medical staff in place.

As of now, only three nurses work to provide care for the inmates. Lain said he would like to beef up that total to match the recommendations of the National Institute of Corrections.

While the services could cost over $1 million per year, Lain said that amount can be reduced in the negotiations. Evans encouraged Lain to talk the price down because whatever price they enter, “it will only go up” in the future.

The contract will be for a for one year period. After the year is up, Evans said the committee will stay active and will check to see if the contract can be extended.

Health Department’s Portage offices relocated

The three Commissioners also approved Tuesday a new lease agreement with Porter Health, moving the County Health Department’s satellite offices at the North County Government Complex in Portage to space located behind Porter’s Portage Hospital that was once used as physician offices.

Evans said the health department has for years requested to move out of the complex so it wouldn’t have to jointly share the space with the County Courts system, having “criminals sit on one side of the aisle and on the other side children” waiting for vaccinations and checkups.

“They clash in more ways than one,” Evans said.

The hospital agreed to lease the space at $19 per square foot or $1,521.58 a month, which Evans said was “very reasonable.” The money will be paid out of county economic development income tax funds.

The lease will be active for three years and will start as early as June 1. Evans said the department will begin moving materials this week.

The extra room at the complex will give more space to one of the courts, he said.


Also, Evans announced that Jim Lynch, chief for the County’s veteran affairs department, will be retiring at the end of this month. Lynch has been in the role for nearly a decade, starting in 2004.

In other business:

-- The Commissioners approved a $50,000 yearly contract with the Makur Corporation of Portage to be coordinator for the District 1 Indiana Emergency Management agencies. County EMA Director Russ Shirley said the amount will be paid with the grant money he receives. Also, Shirley said the money that the state’s Local Emergency Planning Committee no longer has the funds available to pay the County’s EMA monthly $250 bills from NIPSCO and the Commissioners agreed to start paying the bills out of their Utility fund until more funding can be found.

-- The Commissioners also approved a confidentiality agreement with NIPSCO and SEH Inc. as improvements will be done on the Calumet Trail which exists in a right-of-way owned by NIPSCO.


Posted 5/22/2013