Chesterton Tribune



Oversight of animal control shifting from sheriff to county shelter director

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Bringing the Porter County Animal Shelter into a new era, the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted in favor of amendments to the Animal Control ordinance.

The Animal Shelter director will now be responsible for overseeing animal control officers, said County Attorney Scott McClure.

The Commissioners had revamped Animal Control procedures and fees in May 2015. Since then, Animal Control has been overseen by the Sheriff’s Police.

McClure said there are some other minor revisions in the ordinance on the County’s process to hold dogs and how they get back to owners, to clarify who gets paid when dogs get impounded.

Biggs questions citations

Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, said he spoke with Shelter Director Toni Bianchi about a complaint about the fees and was surprised to find out that citations issued for animal control violations are not being collected.

“There seems to be no enforcement mechanism to force those who have been cited to pay their tickets,” Biggs said. When cases are brought to the Prosecutor’s Office, there also is an issue of those cases not being prosecuted because there is not a way to enforce them, Biggs said, and people are ignoring the citations.

McClure said this may be because there is no threat to pay the fines unlike traffic citations where people would have to pay the fee or have their license suspended, but ultimately what happens is they end up with a judgment lien.

Biggs asked if judgment leans are being handed down by the Prosecutor, to which McClure replied each one is but there is no more enforcement beyond that.

Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, said Biggs should pull a meeting together with Bianchi, animal control and the prosecutor’s office

“Let’s go rework though these procedures and get everyone on the same page,” said Good.

Biggs agreed. “If we can put together cases that they can prosecute, our people need to understand what elements are critical for a prosecution.”

The Commissioners approved the eighth allocation for the new Animal Shelter construction at $58,833 to Larson-Danielson.

The new shelter located north of the County Fairgrounds at Ind. 49 and Division Rd. is scheduled to open in June. Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, said there will be a public open house scheduled soon.

Employees of the County Health Department will be holding a collection drive between June 1 and June 14 to coincide with the opening of the Shelter. Collection bins will be place inside county buildings for the public and County employees to donate animal items.

Finance system update

County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said that the final data pull conversion of the County’s new payroll and financial accounting system will be next week.

The Commissioners in August signed a contract with LOW Associates at under $160,000 to replace the antiquated DOS based system. Urbanik said if all goes well with the final test, the payroll after May 30 will all be done with the LOW software.

The new formats will be rolled out to County Departments systematically, with training.

Urbanik said she is also looking into the Commissioners’ request for a time and attendance system. She said the cost for that would be between $75,000 to $90,000 for a one-time fee and $36,000 annually after that.

Stormwater Dept. interns

Department of Development and Stormwater Management Robert Thompson introduced interns who will be working with the department over the summer. Six will be civil engineering interns and two will be GIS interns, representing Valparaiso University, Purdue University and St. Mary’s College/Notre Dame.

“The whole idea is to get stormwater features on the County’s GIS system,” Thompson said. “They are going to be going around the watersheds and inspecting all the infrastructure that we have and gather the data for us as far as the size of the structure, the stream it’s on, the location of it. They are going to provide some real-time data for our GIS system.”

Good said he hopes this will bring more attention to the County’s actions of improving its stormwater management system, as well as making the GIS system more relevant and allow access by the public online.

Thompson said this is first time the County has had engineering interns in over 20 years and there are more women in the program now.

Other business

-- County ITS Director Don Wellsand said he will approach the County Council in June to restore $20,000 that was cut in the consultants line item from the department’s budget about three years ago. The funding is needed to keep the County’s data and phones safe from security breaches. Good and Biggs agreed with the request. “With the phones for the Sheriff’s Department, there is no way around it,” Biggs said.

-- The Memorial Opera House will be a rider on the same liquor liability plan as the Expo Center. Good said this will be done as a savings to the County. MOH will save more on printing this year by purchasing a copy machine for playbills.

-- The Commissioners voted 3-0 for the Election Board to renew their legal services agreement with attorney Ethan Lowe for 2017. Board President David Bengs said the cost will not change this year.

-- A bid from Riggs Mowers was approved to add three lawn mowers to the County’s maintenance department that will also be used to remove snow in the winter.

-- Facilities Director Matt Stechly said the Porter County Master Gardeners did a “fantastic job” on planting plants and flowers in front of the courthouse. “We want to give thanks to them. It’s going to look really good,” he said.



Posted 5/18/2017




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