Chesterton Tribune



Radio dispatch for Duneland fire stations will be loud and clear

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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 John Jokantas.

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 Harbor.

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 willing.

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 Regulation fund.

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) fund.

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, Hoagland said.

Jail purchase

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.

Speed bump

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.



Posted 8/22/2013