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County Council approves more money for E-poll books, passes salary ordinance

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

At its meeting Tuesday, the Porter County Council voted 6-1 to grant $50,000 towards the Election Board’s purchase of 89 electronic poll books from vendor Election Software and Systems.

The e-poll books have been a point of contention between the Council and the Election Board, which had signed a contract for equipment without consulting either the Council or the Commissioners leaving the County on the hook for a total of approximately $50,000 annually for three years.

The sole vote against the latest payout came from Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large.

In February the Council voted 4-3 on the first payout of $52,286 after learning from its attorney, then Scott McClure, that a lawsuit could occur if the contract for the e-poll books was not honored.

By agreeing to the contract however, ES&S offered a credit if the County should choose to renew its agreement with them to be their vendor. The current contract is due to expire at the end of this year, said Republican Director of the Voters Registration Office Sundae Schoon.

If the County chooses to upgrade the poll books, ES&S has said it will offer to buy back the poll books the County has previously acquired at fair market value since a newer model has already been released.

The Election Board began using e-poll books for the 2015 municipal elections and the only time they were used this year was at the County’s three early voting locations. Next year, there are no regular elections but there may be a referendum held for the Michigan City Schools which only affects two precincts in the county, Schoon said.

Schoon said the Election Board is meeting next week on Dec. 13 when it will likely discuss the use of e-poll books in the future.

County Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said he would like to put together a small group of Council members and election officials to “iron out this thing that has taken on a lot of issues.”

Salary Ordinance

Among the approvals made, the Council voted 7-0 to pass the 2017 salary ordinance for County Government employees, including a revised salary for Sheriff Dave Reynolds of $146,311 instead of $143,424 approved at final reading in October.

The salary was changed to match that of the County Prosecutor, which is paid mostly by the state.

The Commissioners had approved the salary in the Sheriff’s compensation agreement for 2017 as well as adjusting the 2016 salary.

County Auditor said the Sheriff’s Department had noticed the error after submitting the budget to the state and worked to get it corrected.

Sheriff’s Police officers were among the few employees who were granted special raises for next year by the Council, to make them more comparable to salaries paid to Portage and Valparaiso Police. Employees not receiving special raises will be given an across-the-board raise of $1,500.

PCCRVC water bills

Also Tuesday, the Council said they would like to hear more information regarding how Indiana American Water has been reportedly under billing the County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission on the request the PCCRVC made to compensate the water company $1,000 for under billing.

“It just seems a little odd,” said Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st.

PCCRVC Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said she is not sure how the discrepancy occurred but the situation is similar to when it was discovered that the Town of Porter was under billing the Visitor Center for sewage.

Weimer said the Visitor Center does see a lot of traffic in the summer months which may have contributed to deviation but she believes the matter has been properly corrected.

“We have a better feel for it,” she said.

The Council voted to approve the PCCRVC’s other requests, $10,000 for bike route signs and posts and $20,000 for asphalt seal coating and striping done this year in the Visitor Center parking lot. The funds come from the collected Innkeeper’s Tax charged to hotel guests.

Other notable approvals made by the Council Tuesday included the $190,000 in grant funds to be used by the Porter County Substance Abuse Committee which will be used for administration and education.

The County Parks Department received approval to use $7,750 in its non-reverting fund for the acquisition of 15 additional acres at Brincka-Cross Gardens.

A job well done

The Council ended its final meeting of the year with a heartfelt send off for longtime Council member Robert Poparad, D-at large, and Biggs, who will be taking a seat on the Board of County Commissioners after Dec. 31. Poparad was not re-elected to the Council in the recent general election.

Whitten said he is happy to have shared ten years working with Poparad and that he’s never worked with anyone “that has had a better understanding of the constraints and challenges” of the budgets of County Government.

“His expertise will be absolutely missed,” Whitten said. He presented Poparad with a decorative baseball bat as a token of appreciation.

Poparad responded saying “I hope I have worked to the benefit of the county, making a little progress here and there.”

Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said that it’s “been a pleasure” working with Poparad and that he has “a sneaking suspicion” that there is a chance Poparad may be back on the Council in the future. Poparad served two four-year terms as the first district representative and most recently was elected as an at-large member for one term.

In his farewell to the Council, Biggs said he has been “impressed” by the intelligence of every member and the experiences have better prepared him for his future role as North District County Commissioner.

Council member Karen Conover, R-3rd, commended all her peers on the work this year. “I think it’s been a great year. We’ve accomplished a lot. We came together and we should be proud.”

 

Posted 12/8/2016

 
 
 
 

 

 

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