Tuesday after the Porter County Council finalized the 2014 budgets, it
unanimously approved $237,000 for what Enhanced 911 Communications Director
John Jokantas said is the last big piece needed to bring its dispatch system
up to date.
Last week, Jokantas got approval from the County Commissioners for the
update with Tiburon Public Safety Software. The Commissioners had voted
unanimously in favor, but with some reluctance, asking if the purchase was
necessary in the light of the County’s financial constraints.
Jokantas said he had flexibility in his rainy fund to cover the new purchase
once the County Council during second reading of the 2014 budget approved
the $800,000 in county economic development income tax funds furnished by
the Commissioners for getting the department through next year.
The new mobile data computer systems will be used in close to all police
cars and fire trucks in the county and can be run on tablet computers, like
iPads, which are less expensive than bigger older data computers in use now,
Buying the upgrade now will be more affordable as the cost would have been
$200,000 if purchased after the first of the year, he added.
Jokantas did have doubts that County officials would let him use another
chunk of funds, having already sought additional funding three times
previously, dipping into the interest fund from the sale of Porter Memorial
hospital for a total of $2 million.
The first installment of $997,000 hospital interest money was in June 2012
for new pagers and voice systems for fire agencies that had to deal with
faulty equipment for years, particularly in the north and south sections of
the county. A new simulcast system now transmits to multiple sites, with
improved reliability and response times.
In August, $907,000 was approved for radio console software to increase the
number of channels for police, fire and emergency medical services broadcast
around the county.
Officials agreed to pony up an additional $206,000 in interest money to
purchase protocol software giving dispatchers a more efficient way to direct
the caller during an emergency.
“What we have done is massively improve our system,” said Jokantas.
The Commissioners have also committed $355,000 in CEDIT to match two
Assistance to Firefighters Grants for radio equipment and garnered $1.7
million in equipment.
Jokantas said during Tuesday’s Council meeting that police and fire stations
in the southern half of the county like Hebron and Kouts have reported great
improvements with their new simulcast system and gave recognition to County
Councilman Jim Polarek, R-4th, for making the push to acquire that system.
“No firefighter should have an excuse that they didn’t hear their pager go
off,” said Jokantas.
This will round out a year-and-a-half-long effort by the 911 department to
work out the bugs in its equipment and the department also has its tower
sites up around the County for fire communication.
Other items approved by the Council Tuesday included:
-- And additional of $402,847 to the County’s Drain Maintenance Fund for
drainage work and improvement and $139,743 in the General Drainage
Improvement fund to cover drainage improvements.
-- Approximately $300,000 in transfers from various items in the County
Commissioner budget to cover part of this year’s shortfall in employee
-- The Porter County Sheriff’s Police was appropriated $11,050 to its
medical and hospital items in its Jail fund to receive a refund from
Advanced Correctional for July services not used and reimbursement from
MobileEx for overpayment.
-- The Council approved using $123,256 from a grant received to make an
inspection for construction of the first arm of the Dunes-Kankakee Trail
around the Town of Porter and the Dunes State Park.
--The County Parks Department was granted authority to collect grant funds
for physical improvements at Sunset Hill Farm and its program curriculum. A
$31,000 grant from the Lake Michigan Coastal Program will go to contractual
to pay for the restoration and rehabilitation of the park’s pond and
prairie. A grant of $5,000 from Arcelor Mittal will be used to update and
expand youth outdoor education programs.
-- The Highway’s Motor Vehicle Fund was approved an additional $40,000 and a
transfer of $40,000 to purchase snow plow edges, additional seasonal
equipment, a mini-track excavator and trailer.
The Council’s next regular monthly meeting on Nov. 26 will be the last for
the year, Council President Bob Poparad, D-At Large, said, since the
December meeting would be cutting too close to Christmas.
At that meeting, the Council is expected to vote on the 2014 employee salary
ordinance. The Council passed the 2014 general fund budget with $1,000
salary raises for employees.