Chesterton Tribune



County hires Human Resources director; County Manager next?

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The Porter County Commissioners announced at the end of their meeting Tuesday that they have selected Pamela J. Courtney as the new human resources director for County Government.

Courtney has worked since 2005 as the Human Resources Director for the Ottawa County Commissioners in Ohio and has a Professional in Human Resources designation through the Society of Human Resources management. She also worked as the Senior Labor Relations Specialist for about five years at the University of Toledo.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, proposed the creation of an HR department two years ago to the County Council, which split 4-3 in favor of creating the department during last fall’s budget hearings. Proponents argued that such a department is necessary given the County employs more than 600 workers.

“I think it will be a great plus to our County and to our County Attorney (Betty Knight) who has been doing all the work on her own,” Evans said.

The Commissioners have budgeted $127,000 for the department including $72,000 for Courtney’s salary.

County Auditor Vicki Urbanik told the Commissioners last month she has cleared space in her office for the HR director to work.

New manager

Also on Tuesday, Evans made a push for the County Council to consider creating a full-time County Manager position, which “would make everyone’s job easier” on the Commissioner and Council boards by lightening their workloads and keeping a healthy line of communication between the two and the public.

Council and Commissioner jobs are considered to be only part-time, Evans said.

In support of his proposal, Evans said there are municipal governments in the County which have hired town managers to help carry out administrative duties, like Chesterton and Valparaiso.

Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, voiced his support saying that he’s only been on the job for three and a half months and found there to be “a lot of moving parts” to what county government does.

Good wants more time to weigh health insurance

In the business portion of their meeting, the Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of moving forward with a few new measures in the new employee health insurance plan with INETICO.

Leigh Westergren, the employee benefits specialist with the County’s servicing agent Anton Insurance, and Troy Scott with R & R Benefits, said that the Commissioners had to decide whether to penalize employees who don’t pre-certify for health care services, with a fee or have the claims denied.

Evans opted for the penalty fee which would be $250 for any non-precertification. He requested however that outpatient hospice care be removed from the list of services that would need to be pre-certified.

Evans expressed some reluctance in approving the penalty fees but said “this is part of what we have to do so employees will have to have some skin in the game.”

The Commissioners are working to stay within the confines of the $9 million the County Council budgeted this year for health insurance by initiating the new health plan that utilizes reference-based pricing.

Good requested that Westergren and Scott get the information to the Commissioners earlier, having only been handed the information “30 minutes before the meeting.”

“I would like to see the information come before me in a timely manner so I can ask questions,” he said, adding that he voted against accepting the INETICO plan in February because he wanted more details.

Nature trust grants

Also, the Commissioners voted 3-0 on a first reading to accept grant money from the Indiana Bicentennial Nature Trust on behalf of the County Parks Department in a new fund.

Urbanik said the grant money needs to be held in a new account according to the regulations of the Indiana Department of Government Finance.

The BNT agreed to grant $150,000 to the Parks for a 46-acre acquisition at Brincka-Cross Gardens.

The Commissioners also voted 3-0 to support a resolution by the Valparaiso Lakes Area Conservancy District to apply for a BNT $50,000 grant which would be used to purchase and preserve eight acres of wetland on Flint Lake.



Posted 4/8/2015





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