Days of static, white noise and faulty connections with the County’s 911
dispatch center will be a thing of the past for local fire departments in
the northeast corner of the county, according to 911 Communications Director
At Tuesday’s County Board of Commissioners meeting, the board unanimously
agreed to pay out $43,000 for installation and service of T-1 carrier lines
for the county wide fire simulcast system which Jokantas said clears up a
lot of issues with transmitting out to the fire departments and receiving.
About $1,500 is for the installation of the line that will run from
Valparaiso to Michigan City while the rest will be used for service spread
out of three years.
“None of the fire departments will complain about not being able to hear us
the way we built it out,” said Jokantas.
Jokantas said the biggest benefactors of expanding the simulcast system are
Beverly Shores and Pine Township Volunteer Fire Department and others to the
north such as Ogden Dunes. He added that this would affect all fire
departments in the county except for Portage and Valparaiso who are on their
own radio systems.
The 911 Communications department has spent a couple years attempting to fix
coverage snafus on the radio systems. Jokantas said stalls occurred
reorganizing with AT&T to Frontier Communications.
Next, Jokantas will attend the County Council meeting on Aug. 27 discussing
replacement of the existing hardware and software at the center to expand
the number of radio channels it can broadcast on.
One of the channels will soon include Porter Hospital EMS to improve its
communication with local fire departments including Chesterton and Burns
Valpo asks for bakery deed
In an unannounced agenda item, attorney Patrick Lyp for the City of
Valparaiso told the Commissioners the city may be interested in acquiring
the deed for the former Natural Ovens Bakery building, which can be seen
from Ind. 49 as a large, dome-shaped structure.
The building has been vacant for years now, falling into “substantial
disrepair,” Lyp said, and has been selected for the county’s upcoming tax
sale in October with approximately $1.4 million owed in back taxes.
If no buyer makes a move on it, Lyp said the Commissioners can decide to
hand the deed over to a municipality. In this case, Valparaiso would like
the property back on the tax rolls, increasing revenue to all governmental
units which can use it.
The plan would be for the city to demolish the building at a cost of
$350,000, Lyp said, and make the site shovel ready for redevelopment. He
said that because the taxes are so high, the chances of it being sold are
low, but he said he would like to see it purchased if a private buyer was
County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said the property is
“never going to sell” if additional taxes are accrued. If Valparaiso ends up
obtaining the property, Evans said he would like to see pass-throughs to
taxing units put in place should the city incorporate the property into a
tax incremental finance (TIF) district.
Highway Dept. to get “bonus”
A nice surprise came to the County Highway Department as it learned it will
be able to collect an unexpected bonus from the state’s Motor Carrier
Highway Superintendent Al Hoagland said “someone smarter than us” figured
out that if the amount collected in the fund exceeds $500,000, any
additional amount will be transferred to the Motor Vehicle Highway (MVH)
Hoagland said he does not know for sure how much the County will be able to
pick up from the state but the carrier regulation amount was nearly $2
million. He said this is the first time this has happened since 2009.
Evans said he believes there are more instances like this where extra money
from the state are due to the county and asked the County Council’s
financial specialist Vicki Urbanik, sitting in the audience, if she could
search out other funds.
“We need to look at that and see we get our due,” said Evans.
Evans said that with the bonus MVH funds he would like to see that highway
workers receive a pay raise.
The commissioners also approved the purchase of four new Mack trucks for the
County worth $848,585, which will be the last part of a 10-year purchase
program that has also saved the county large amounts in maintenance costs,
Meanwhile, the Commissioners gave the nod to Sheriff David Lain’s request
for emergency funds to cover the costs of industrial strength fans used to
circulate air in the jail cells, but commissioners were annoyed that the
Sheriff did not consult them before making the purchase.
Evans said if Lain had checked, the County could have found power fans
“lying around” for him to use in lieu of purchasing new ones.
But Lain said there “wasn’t a lot” his department could do, since the fans
were needed on a weekend when the County offices were closed.
“Tempers (at the jail) rise with the temperatures,” Lain said.
Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney advised, “Communication is always good.”
Evans said the fans could be used elsewhere once the jail is done with them.
The Commissioners approved $2,916, not from the jail rainy day fund as Lain
suggested, but from the Commissioner’s CCD fund.
But Lain did receive good marks from Evans on how his officers handled last
week’s standoff with Jackson Twp. resident Eric Martin, who was arrested
after firing shots at police. Lain extended gratitude to other entities who
assisted at the scene such as the Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department
among others and the surrounding neighbors.
“I am very proud of our team. They made some tough decisions. It’s a winning
finish when no one is injured,” said Lain.
On a separate matter, the Commissioners also agreed to allocate $8,156 in
jail rainy day funds toward the electronic record system.
In other business, the Commissioners approved a the installation of a speed
bump near the entrance/exit of the County Garage, after the head of
maintenance for the County Heidi Childers recounted an incident where a
vehicle moving at a high rate of speed nearly struck her in the garage.
“It’s very dangerous,” Childers said. “Everybody just needs to slow down.”
A six-foot rubber speed bump will be installed, forcing vehicles to slow
down at the exit.
Childers added that construction for the new storage unit in the garage for
election equipment will begin on Thursday.
Because there will be fewer spaces available when the Commissioners rent out
parking spaces during the Valparaiso Popcorn Fest, the Commissioners
unanimously raised the price for a space from $5 to $7 this year. The money
collected is used as a source of revenue for the Commissioners.