Chesterton Tribune



E911 requesting 200k in hospital interest to improve emergency services

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Porter County’s Enhanced 911 Communications Center is asking to use some of the county’s hospital interest funds a second time this year, this time to purchase a new countywide protocol system to aid emergency responders in gathering information.

Making the request to the County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday, 911 Communications Director John Jokantas petitioned the board to approve a $206,490 expansion of the center’s emergency dispatch system with hospital sale interest to include protocols for local police and fire in addition to the current protocols for medical.

Jokantas said that much like the medical dispatch, 911 dispatchers would be provided with a series of questions that would be consistent from one caller to the next.

Depending on what the situation is, Jokantas said that between medical, fire and police there would be roughly 100 sets of questions for the 911 dispatchers to refer to.

Situations would include basic theft, domestic violence, structure fires, and medical emergencies, to more specific cases, such as what to do if you are in a sinking car, what to do if your brakes go out on your vehicle, and how to perform CPR.

“The new (systems) will provide an additional level of firefighter safety, police safety, as well as safety for the general public,” Jokantas told the commissioners.

County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said he is in favor of the request seeing as how it would “draw in” all the police and fire agencies in the county. He and fellow commissioners Nancy Adams, R-Center, and Laura Blaney, D-South, all cast “yay” votes, approving the request 3-0.

In order to take from the hospital interest fund, a request needs a majority vote from both the Board of Commissioners and the County Council. Jokantas has yet to take the request to the Council.

The 911 center has received two installments of hospital interest money for matching grants to purchase new radio equipment for local police/fire, the most recent request was made in May.

Pending approval from both boards, Jokantas said he hopes to make the purchase with Priority Dispatch of Salt Lake City, Utah, some time in the fall and have the protocol systems functioning by late spring 2014 if there are no major delays.

With the list of questions in front of the 911 dispatcher, Jokantas said it will reduce the time it takes to train an employee because they would not have to memorize the protocols, meaning there is potential savings in training costs and a reduction in overtime.

Smart 911 spikes

Also, Jokantas told the commissioners that the number of residents signed up for Smart911 has increased by 10 percent this month after seeking sign ups at the Porter County Fair.

He also said that the department is making its largest push for Smart911, which is a free service that lets emergency responders know information about callers ahead of time that could aid them in a rescue.

Jokantas said thousands of flyers will be distributed to school systems in the county and the 911 team will continue reaching out by being present at different festivals and events.

“We’ll just keep moving forward,” Jokantas said.

Commissioners pitch in for Homlessness Coordinator

A collaborative effort by several organizations to bring an end to homelessness in Porter County got a boost from the Commissioners Tuesday.

The Porter County Coalition for Affordable Housing unveiled a 10 year plan in 2012 for the community to band together to find homes for those less fortunate.

Coalition members Barb Young of the Porter County Community Foundation and Caroline Shook of Housing Opportunities said the Coalition had selected Elizabeth Allen to coordinate efforts among the groups and were seeking different communities and groups to share in paying Allen for her work.

Young said the City of Valparaiso, United Way of Porter County, and the Community Foundation have each chipped in $10,000, and others have shown interest in kicking in funds including the Portage Twp. and Center Twp. trustees, and the City of Portage.

The Commissioners voted unanimously to create a new county economic development income tax (CEDIT) project for $20,000 to assist the coalition in retaining a coordinator for two years.

Evans encouraged the coalition to continue speaking with other towns and township trustees about getting involved.

“I think everyone should be participating in this,” said Evans.

Young said the 10 year plan is “moving forward” but with a number of coalition members, a coordinator is desirable to keep the group advancing in the list of goals and objectives.

“The last thing we want to do is for this plan to sit on the shelf,” she said.


Also, the Commissioners made good on their promise to approve $15,000 in CEDIT dollars for stone and asphalt to cover the parking circuit at Bricka-Cross Gardens County Park located at 427 East Furness Road. The paving will be done by Reith-Riley Construction of Goshen.

Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos mentioned to the commissioners his department was successful in acquiring a Lake Michigan Coastal Grant from the Department of Natural Resources for 1.5 miles of trail enhancements at the park.

Lenckos at last week’s county parks board meeting said estimates for the new trail system came in lower than he expected ranging from $36,000 to $60,000, which will be approved later. Lenckos said he hopes construction can begin next year.

“Go see (Brincka-Cross Gardens). It’s a beautiful park,” Evans told the audience.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Also on Tuesday, the Commissioners approved a measure proclaiming September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month which is promoted by the Northwest Indiana Cancer Kids foundation charity organization.

According to statistics read by Evans in the proclamation, 13 children in Lake and Porter have been diagnosed with some type of cancer since January and six children have died due to illness.

Cancer continues to be the number one disease killer of children and an estimated 13,000 children are diagnosed each year in the United States. Cancer appears in children more frequently than in any group other than those over age 65 but research is “vastly and consistently underfunded.”

MS4 education

In other business Tuesday, the Commissioners approved three memorandums of understanding with the parks department, the recycling and waste reduction district and the County’s soil and water conservation district, to educate the public on stormwater improvements.

MS4 coordinator Rich Hudson said this will fulfill the county’s state obligation to have an active MS4 program. He was thanked by the Commissioners for his efforts.

Washing machine

Also, the Commissioners voted 3-0 to purchase a new washing machine for the Porter County Jail in the amount of $33,000 from the jail’s rainy day fund.



Posted 8/7/2013