Chesterton Tribune



Porter County and Portage Township to partner on building project

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The Porter County Council heard of new IT improvements and a collaboration between the Commissioners and the Portage Township Trustee at its meeting Tuesday night.

Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, reported that Portage Township Trustee Brendan Clancy reached out to the Commissioners to discuss space opportunities for their capital improvements project. Good said that the Commissioners were looking into erecting a new building in Portage that would house an office of the County Assessor and Health Department, among others, when Clancy suggested that the County share space to be more cost effective.

Good said that construction under the old plan would have cost between $250 and $275 per square foot. The new plan in the works, a $12,000 square foot complex that the County would share with Portage Township, would cost between $125 and $155 per square foot. It would be the new home of the Portage Township Trustee and the Portage Food Bank and a less traditional complex. Good describing it as looking similar to a strip retail shopping center.

County Attorney Scott McClure said the Commissioners are working on a memorandum of understanding regarding who pays for what and how maintenance will work. “They’re not spending on us,” Good noted. “We’re not spending any on them, and because we’re together, its actually saving us a lot of money.”

Council Member Jeff Larson, R-at large, asked how Clancy anticipates the building will work for his office and the food bank in the future. Clancy said that he foresees the new building fitting their needs for the next 20 to 30 years. Larson asked for clarification that the food bank wouldn’t out grow the space, as Larson has worked with the Westchester Neighbors Food Pantry in Chesterton, which he observed is always growing out of its space. Clancy replied that having control over the layout of the food bank will allow for making the best use of the space available. “It’s a rare opportunity to actually design the food pantry space,” he added.

Council Members Dan Whitten, D-at large, and Mike Jessen, R-4th, both expressed their excitement about the project and the collaboration. Good said that the Commissioners will continue to update the Council going forward.

Two-Year IT Plan

IT Director Don Wellsand reported that KSM Consulting has completed an assessment of the County’s IT system. Among its recommendations: to form an IT steering committee so as to resolve issues both with the systems and with staffing; make organizational improvements; conduct more comprehensive internal training; update technology at the jail; and strengthening the County’s firewall protection.

Wellsand said that a two-year It infrastructure plan has been formed based on the recommendations, and he asked the Council’s approval for additional appropriations to the tune of $158,500 for salaries, $15,000 for overtime, and $350,000 for data processing equipment, to accomplish it. The total cost of the plan is projected to be $863,780.20 for equipment and $16,931.28 for overtime.

Whitten asked whether the general fund can sustain such costs. County Auditor Vicki Urbanik confirmed that it can. Whitten also asked when Wellsand’s department would start work on the improvements and Wellsand replied that work started Jan. 1 and certain upgrades have already been put in place at the North County Complex in Portage, the Courthouse, and the Administration Center. The IT Department has already gone through $200,000 allocated for equipment and hardware.

Whitten asked as well what the top priority for upgrades would be. Wellsand said the jail, but that other upgrades have to go into place first for the systems to work cohesively.

Council Vice-president Jeremy Rivas asked what that phase of the plan will cost. McClure said those numbers haven’t been finalized, but they aren’t numbers the general fund will be able to sustain. “That would have to be a capital expenditure from some other source.”



Posted 2/28/2018




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