The Porter County
Council applauded Superior Court Judge William Alexa and Magistrate
Katherine Forbes for using a state grant that will set up a Volunteer
Advocates for Seniors and Incapacitated Adults (VASIA) between Porter and
LaPorte Counties for guardianship services.
At its meeting
Tuesday, the Council approved, on a 7-0 vote, an additional appropriation of
$10,000 in Alexa’s general fund budget to serve as the match for the grant.
Alexa said the state will then give $75,000.
The VASIA program
allows trained volunteers to be court-appointed guardians working with
nursing homes, assisted living and other health-care organizations like
Porter-Starke services. The guardians can assess situations with seniors and
incapacitated adults and plan appropriate services for them if a family or
other guardianship is unavailable to do so.
Alexa said part of
the grant is for in-kind services such as office space and equipment. Since
there is no extra room at the courthouse, two attorneys-- Don Evans and Ivan
Bodensteiner -- have agreed to rent out their offices to the program and the
volunteers will be trained, he said.
Forbes said this
will be something that will add to the quality of life for individuals in
the county. She said Adult Protective Services “gets calls all the time”
from Porter County but if someone does not have a guardian, there is nothing
that can be done.
Council member Jeff
Larson, R-at large, said he appreciates the effort by VASIA to give help.
people in those facilities without representation, it’s well needed here in
the community,” Larson said. “Thank you for stepping up.”
Also Tuesday, the
Council decided 7-0 to approve the Sheriff’s Police request for $580,000 out
of its general fund budget for the second installment of the Sheriff’s
pension fund this year.
The pension fund
generated some debate during last fall’s budget hearings as there were
several options to budget for the large expense.
Council member Dan
Whitten, D-at large, motioned to use the general fund as the funding source
but asked his colleagues if they felt it should come from somewhere else
such as the hospital sale interest.
The County has a
little over $1 million remaining in unallocated hospital interest funds,
according to County Auditor Vicki Urbanik.
Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, asked Urbanik if it was “safe” to take out of the
General Fund which is limited by the levy the County receives in property
The Council in
years past has done “a wonderful job” of keeping the general fund on track
after it dips into it, Urbanik said, and she is “confident that the state
would approve this.” She then added that she would caution however that it
is unknown what would happen if there are any major property tax refunds or
appeals this year.
Whitten said there
should be some money saved up in the general fund in case it is needed for
insurance. Council member Andy Bozak, R-1st, said he would like to see the
fund protected and would look to hospital interest instead.
But a vote would
have to wait until the Council’s next meeting to dip in to the interest
fund, because that proposed appropriation would have to be legally
advertised. Sheriff Business Manager Edie Hahn said the payment would need
to be made this month.
The Council then
approved the request from the Sheriff’s general fund.
Mike Jessen, R-4th, said there should be some discussion before the next
installment of which fund to draw from.
Commissioners unanimously approved Sheriff Dave Reynolds’ request to move a
lieutenant from the detective bureau and make him a captain to lead the drug
task force unit, then fill in the ranks in other divisions. The Sheriff’s
Dept. took over drug task force from the County Prosecutor in March.
The move would
involve an additional $3,584 for salaries which will be taken out of the
County User Fee fund.
assessor seeks new employee
It’s a busy time
for the Portage Twp. Assessor Alta Neri’s office as it is racing to meet the
state’s deadline for reassessment.
Neri sought to hire
a new full-time worker to complete the work on time, with a salary of
$35,000 before benefits. The request proposed a $4,500 additional
appropriation plus a $13,000 transfer in the County’s reassessment fund,
which is shared with the County Assessor’s Office.
Neri first made a
request for an employee during the fall budget hearings and has recently has
some staff adjustments, including a retirement. There are currently four
full-time employees, including Neri.
Neri said she tried
to find someone part-time but has not found anyone interested so she wants
to make the position full-time to get someone quickly enough to meet the
Urbanik said there
is enough cushion in the reassessment budget to support a full-time position
for now, but there is no way of knowing if it would be feasible for 2018.
A motion to accept
the request failed 5-2 with Council members Larson, Bozak, Jessen, Karen
Conover, R-3rd, and Sylvia Graham, D-at large, voting against. Whitten and
Rivas, who are Neri’s Council liaisons, voted in favor.
asked Neri a second time to hire someone part-time and come back if
The Council passed
a motion 7-0 to allocate $300,000 requested by the Department of Development
and Stormwater Management to pay for bridge and road engineering out of the
cumulative bridge fund.
Department Director Robert Thompson about progress with projects. Thompson
said time has been sparse on projects because the department has been
handling an inordinate number of complaints due to excessive rain.
Since Jan. 1, there
have been 180 complaints, compared to 150 the entire year of 2016, Thompson
said. “We are working on a solution to that,” he added.
A few projects
currently in the works include remediating drainage around Willowcreek Rd.
and CR 700N with the City of Portage and implementing a new drainage system
in Fieldstone Manor subdivision near the Lake of the Four Seasons, Thompson