Chesterton Tribune



County plans to increase Animal Shelter budget by $100,000 for new facility

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The Porter County Council has encouraged departments to keep their spending down for the 2017 general fund budgets but they are also supporting a large increase to the Animal Shelter as it moves to a bigger facility next year.

The Council voted 7-0 on a budget proposed at $436,400, but did take out salary increases for current employees just as they have done with the other budgets.

The Shelter’s budget in 2016, for comparison, is about $336,000.

Construction for the new 14,000 sq. ft. shelter is currently underway near the corner of Division Rd. and Ind. 49. Completion is scheduled for next June. The current Shelter is located at Ind. 2 and Heavlin Rd. just south of Valparaiso and is approximately 4,000 sq. ft. in size.

Animal Shelter Director Toni Bianchi at Tuesday’s second reading of the budget said she would like to hire two additional full-time employees. Those would be supervisors for the dog and cat kennels.

“They are definitely wanted. We will have three times as many animals to deal with,” she said. “It will be very helpful to all of us to have someone oversee all those areas.”

The new employees would bring the total to five full-time workers. Bianchi’s salary is proposed to stay the same at $60,000 and she is seeking moderate raises for a manager’s position and an adoption person from about $32,000 to $35,000 as their responsibilities will inevitably increase with the larger facility.

The raises were taken out of the Council’s second reading vote and will be considered with all the other pay increase requests at final reading on Oct. 27.

Another requested increase is in the amount of funding for part-time hourly workers, which Bianchi hopes to increase from about $124,000 to $160,000.

Council members spoke in support of many of the figures Bianchi presented with the help of County Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South.

“We want a state-of-the-art Shelter,” said Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large. “A lot of (effort) has gone into this.”

Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, said he was “shocked” that the budget only increased by $100,000, thinking it would be much larger given the expanded space of the new facility.

Bianchi said the Shelter will still operate as a no-kill shelter and all dogs and cats would be spayed and neutered before they are adopted.

The Council also discussed at length the Shelter’s supplemental fund which includes the fees the County receives through the Animal Control ordinance from cities and towns in the county which pay for the service. All have signed contracts expect Portage, which has taken its animals to the Humane Society in Hobart.

Whitten said he has been in contact with Portage City Council members and they are nearing an agreement.

“It will be much better for their animals,” added Blaney.

The Animal Shelter’s supplemental fund has received about $60,000 from the services fees currently.

Other budgets

Second readings were approved for the County Highway Department, Opportunity Enterprises, Emergency Management Agency, Recycling and Waste Reduction District and others.

The County’s new stormwater department’s budget was approved at $3.4 million for 2017, mainly projected to be raised through the new Stormwater fee.

County Planning Director Robert Thompson told the Council the Plan Commission Department’s budget continues to increase which is supported by building fees.

“Things seem to be doing better this year,” he said.

Also, the County Park Department is seeking to move its office coordinator position from part-time to full-time, to be paid out of the department’s non-reverting operations fund which gets its support from program fees.

Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said the position was changed from full-time to part-time when he was hired in 2010 and he wishes it could revert back to the former because there are times when the work goes beyond 30 hours per week.

Lenckos projected the operations fund at $262,000 for 2017, which is a notable increase from this year, but Lenckos said he is confident that will be achieved with fees from programs the department is planning for next year.

Venue fund

With the approval of the Expo Center’s budget on second reading, Whitten announced that the County Visitors Commission will be brought back Thursday to continue discussion on the venue fund that goes to support the Parks Department, Expo Center, Memorial Opera House and the Porter County Museum.

Last Thursday, Council members talked about increasing the amounts those venues get in order to support marketing and tourism.



Posted 9/28/2016




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