The Porter County
Board of Commissioners approved two requests by the Northern Indiana
Atheists (NIA) at its Nov. 5 meeting.
follow a heated October meeting where Commissioner President Jeff Good,
R-Center, told the South Bend-based group to go back where they came from
and Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, got out of his seat and confronted the
NIA President Troy
Moss requested NIA be allowed to display signs and have an information table
on the Courthouse lawn on Dec. 6, the same day Valparaiso Events will have
the Courthouse lawn for their annual Holly Days celebration. The Board was
adamant that they wouldn’t double-book the Courthouse lawn for that date at
last month’s meeting, though Moss argued that NIA’s request to have the
grounds that day came in earlier than Valparaiso Events’ request to have the
space for Holly Days and that one group doesn’t need the entire space.
NIA also requested
blanket approval to have volunteers from their group present at the south
entrance of the Courthouse on weekdays to talk to interested people about
NIA. They modeled this request after a religious group that offers prayer to
people leaving the Courthouse was given the same approval at the October
approved both Nov. 5 NIA requests without discussion, even allowing Moss to
pick a preferred quadrant of the Courthouse lawn. He picked the southeast
In an email to the
Chesterton Tribune, NIA said they had sent a ‘demand letter’ to the
Commissioners through their legal counsel on Nov. 4, in which the American
Atheists Legal Center offered to assist NIA in potential litigation for
alleged violations of the Indiana Open Door Law and constitutional rights to
free speech and equal treatment related to the October denials.
Hybrid Squad Cars
In other business,
the Porter County Sheriff’s Police may be getting as many as nine new hybrid
squad cars, since the Commissioners approved spending up to $400,000 on the
new vehicles. $350,000 would be funded by the Commissioners, and $50,000
would come from the Sheriff’s budget.
Sheriff Dave Reynolds said each hybrid car would represent an annual savings
of $2,000 on fuel without compromising performance. If his whole fleet was
hybrid vehicles, he said that would save $93,000 per year.
“We’ve done our due
diligence. There’s no question about performance,” Reynolds said. “Almost
every Sheriff’s office is looking at doing this, and as far as we know, we
would be the first,” he continued.
Reynolds said the
battery in each vehicle is good for 150,000 miles, and the County usually
rotates their squad cars out of service at 120,000 miles anyway. County
Attorney Scott McClure also pointed out that hybrid squad cars are made
specifically for police applications-- different from a standard hybrid.
Each hybrid squad
car costs $37,643, about $3,000 more than a standard squad car. Reynolds
said if the County can save that much on fuel without sacrificing
performance, he doesn’t see any downside.
Diane Bates, a
resident of Jackson Township, took an opportunity at the end of the meeting
to question why more striping hasn’t been done on county roads. Bates said
bright yellow center lines are a matter of safety, especially on dark curvy
roads like the ones near her home.
Biggs said heavily
traveled roads get priority, and there’s only so much money to go around
each year. Highway Superintendent Rich Sexton added that striping costs
$3,000 a mile. Biggs said the Highway Department is working to chip and seal
county roads using its own equipment, and the roads that are sealed in
spring will be striped after sealing.