Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Jail upgrade advances; RDA Kouts grant will help South County park

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County Sheriff David Lain said his latest projection for opening the unused pod at the county jail is “probably eight or nine weeks after the start of next year” now that the Commissioners have committed to seeking bids for housing upgrades to the pod.

The Commissioners on Tuesday accepted a recommendation by DLZ to seek bids of about $125,000 for fundamental housing items such as refining the interior walls and finishes, replacing disassembled door locks and restoring the plumbing, fire protection systems, electrical and security systems.

Mike Jabo of DLZ said the initial estimates of $148,000 to $156,000 were reduced as some enhancements the County could do in-house, such as painting.

DLZ also recommends that the Commissioners pursue additional upgrades to the overall jail costing roughly $700,000. Jabo said those items could be handled piece by piece.

The larger items include a new video surveillance system at up to $412,000, a new intercom system for $147,000 and electronic security control system, $81,000.

County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, asked if the bigger items, like the video system, could be accomplished in phases. Jabo said it would be more cost-effective if the whole system is purchased with one lump sum.

Evans agreed to consider additional items after completing the step of opening the B-pod.

“It’s not like we have a lot of money to work with but we do have the $1.4 million from the refinancing of our jail bonds,” Evans said.

Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, asked if the video system should be purchased prior to the pod’s opening. Lain said there are security cameras there now adequate for monitoring until they are replaced with the new system.

RDA grant

Sharing a bit of good news, Blaney took a moment to announce that earlier on Tuesday the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority awarded a $200,000 challenge grant to the town of Kouts which will allow it to extend its infrastructure north.

She said that the extension includes the land the County is currently eyeing to purchase for a south county park.

Blaney thanked the RDA and all those who helped with the cooperative effort including the Town of Kouts, fellow County Commission-ers and County Council members

“This is a good example of a number of factors coming together and something really good coming out of it,” Blaney said. “I feel like it’s going to be a game changer for the area.”

The grant will allow for the underground installation of water and sewer pipes.

In attendance Tuesday, Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said he is not ready to announce the exact location of the new park, as the purchase is still being negotiated, but he said he’s excited to have the Town of Kouts on board with the endeavor.

With the grant, Lenckos said his department will be able to use more of the CEDIT acquisition money for development.

The location may be revealed at the park board’s next meeting in December.

Blaney compared the opportunities with the new grant to those in the Chesterton Utility Corridor Project, which she also supported.

“In both projects, the government is helping out with infrastructure and I think that’s really what we’re there for,” Blaney said after the meeting.

Health Board to pick up Antabuse program

Meanwhile, an ordinance to establish the County Board of Health as administrator of the Antabuse anti-alcohol program was approved by the Commissioners on first reading.

Board attorney David Hollenbeck said that the probation department has administered the program since 1971, but there is a new “legal impediment” that would end the department’s and the judiciary system’s role in operating it after this year.

“It would die if the health department does not step up,” he said.

Hollenbeck said the health board had unanimously voted to take over the program and collect the fees, which will stay at $120 per month for each user. There are roughly 80 people in the program now, he said, and the program prevents them from having to sit in jail.

The probation department had submitted an annual budget for the Antabuse program which will be within the health department starting in 2015, Hollenbeck said.

Users take Antabuse three days a week at Portage and Valparaiso locations and many people have overcome alcoholism by participating in the program, Hollenbeck said.

The Commissioners will hold a second reading on the ordinance at their Dec. 3 meeting.

In other matters Tuesday:

*  The 2014 County Holiday Schedule was adopted with 14 dates total for the County to be closed, including Election Days. Evans said he hears complaints that County employees have too many paid holidays but the schedule is virtually the same as most Indiana counties.

*  The Porter County Substance Abuse Council won approval to add a new desk in a workspace for a part-time worker it’s been able to hire with a drug free communities grant. The Council occupies a room on the first floor of the County Administration Building.

*  The County Highway Department received and opened bids for 2014 service and supplies. Unable to attend the Dec. 3 Commissioners meeting, Highway Superintendent Al Hoagland will tell the Commissioners of his recommendation at the Dec. 17 meeting.

*  The County’s E-911 Communications Center is making strides toward public safety standard accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. E-911 Director John Jokantas said it’s been a goal of his “since Day 1” to achieve CALEA accreditation which will involve a two-year self assessment.

 

Posted 11/21/2013