Robert Thompson reported Porter County was awarded $817,544.51 in Community
Crossings grant money.
The grant is a
50-50 match from the state for road improvements and will work in
conjunction with new priorities and initiatives the Highway Department is
pursuing under Director Rich Sexton.
Engineer Matt Gavelek said the Department is pursuing a long-term asset
management plan to maintain roads at the right times so they don’t later
need major intervention and to determine which roads should be priority
Gavelek said the
plan is about working within the current budget to optimize the time and
money spent on repairs. “Asset management works on the basis that an ounce
of preservation is worth a pound of cure.”
Gavelek said roads
tend to deteriorate on a reverse S curveÑthey go from being acceptable to
needing repair very rapidly, so intervening when the roads appear fine is
often the best way to maintain quality.
Major steps in the
process will be determining district specific needs and using Roadsoft
software to take frequent inventories of the County roads. All the data
involved will be updated by Gavelek as neededÑnot just revisited every few
years. The inventory software isn’t just for roads either. Other features
like signs, guardrails, culverts and markings can be added to the inventory,
although Gavelek said the focus will be on roads for the first year.
Blaney, D-South, said the plan sounds like a good way to use grant money
wisely. Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said the plan is the missing piece
of the County’s move toward being data-centric in how roads are maintained.
In other Highway
Department business, the Board approved a lease agreement with Cross Roads
Bank to purchase four new plow trucks later next year for a total cost of
$763,758.36 after trade-in value. The trucks need to be built, but doing the
lease agreement now locks in a low interest rate of 3.45 percent, according
to County Attorney Scott McClure.
The Board approved
the 2019 employee handbook, which had significant revisions written by
County Human Resources Director Rhonda Young. The changes take effect Jan.
The Board praised
Young’s work on the new handbook. “The last time this County had a major
rewrite of its policies was over 20 years ago, so you had a big job,” said
Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North. Good said the new handbook is more
purposeful and eliminates some gray areas.
One gray area Young
fixed was the amount of vacation time employees are entitled to based on
their tenure with the County. Young said different departments interpreted
the old handbook in different ways because it was unclear where the line was
for employees who were at or near the threshold for receiving more vacation
Employee sick days
and personal days have also changed. Young said employees used to be
entitled to 9 sick days and 3 personal days. Now employees have paid time
off (PTO), so they don’t have to say what they’re calling off for. Employees
will now get 10 days, or 70 total hours of PTO. Young said this allows
flexibility since employees can take only what they need instead of using
whole days. Along with this, the employee sick bank, where employees used to
donate unused days off, will be eliminated and replaced with short-term
disability, much of which will be paid for by the County, for those who need
it and qualify. McClure said that going along with this, employees will not
be allowed to donate any more days to the sick bank this year and the sick
bank days will remain available until the short-term disability is
instituted in January.
The Board also
approved an update to its master agreement with Shive-Hattery, the firm
working on renovations to the Courthouse, Expo Center, and old jail
building, to include design and build out for the temporary Child Support
space in the former restaurant space on the first floor of the old jail at
157 Franklin in Valparaiso. The Commissioner’s purchased the building in
April with plans to renovate it into a new annex building, and the
Prosecutor’s Child Support Division will be the first office to move in
later this week after a long-term lease for that office’s previous space at
15 N. Franklin was determined to be invalid by independent law firm Newby,
Lewis, Kaminski & Jones.
The Board passed a
resolution establishing the intent to hold a Commissioners sale for tax
certificates. The details of the sale are yet to be announced.