Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Commissioners look for space for voting machines; Sheriff medical staff tabled

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

If you think you’re stuffed from Thanksgiving, try telling that to the staff in the Porter County Voters Registration.

The office’s Democrat director Kathy Kozuszek and Republican Director Sundae Schoon at Tuesday’s County Commissioner meeting said in the last twenty years the number of registered voters has gone from 75,000 to roughly 115,000. Although the population is growing robustly, the space in the office remains unchanged and is piling up with paperwork, voting equipment and bodies during periods of early voting.

“We need the room,” Kozuszek said, “We are simply cramped.”

Schoon said during this past election lines for early voting at the County Administration building stretched into the Health Department, blocking off the hallway where the Veterans Services and the Coroners’ office are.

“It’s causing not just problems for us but problems for the other departments,” Schoon said.

County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said “it’s good to see the office is busy” but agreed something needs to be done to free up space. He said his main priority would be to move the voting machines for the county’s 123 precincts to an area where they can be better stored in a temperature controlled environment to cut down on maintenance costs.

With the room the machines are stored in now, an employee of Electronic Systems and Software needs to come and check the machines on multiple days since they have to be rotated. The $60,000 maintenance cost could be halved if ES&S can perform the maintenance all in one visit.

Election Board President Patrick Lyp, also present Tuesday, said a sizable grant helped purchase those machines and it would be an expense to the county if replacements are needed.

“We’ll have to treat those machines almost like your own computer,” Lyp said.

Storing the machines elsewhere would also give the office the opportunity to organize and hold more poll judge and inspector classes instead of using the Commissioner Chambers upstairs.

Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, said the extra room could hold more voting booths so the office could accommodate more persons showing up to vote early.

“That room could have many uses if we empty it up,” she said.

Evans said he “has a few ideas” of where the machines could be stored but would not say where, specifically. He has made the case that county departments throughout the county administration center are “busting at the seams” and some would need to consolidate or relocate for the county to continue providing services.

Just this past summer, the Commissioners discussed using the county sheriff’s substation on CR 700 North in South Haven as a place to store election equipment in the basement if it could be renovated. They also planned to move the Portage Assessor’s office to the building to open up more space at the North County Government complex.

However, Evans told the Tribune the project has since been abandoned once the board received word from engineers that an assessment of the soil indicated using the building would not be suitable for those purposes.

Meanwhile, Kozuszek said while 2013 would be an off year for elections when office changes could be made, she said after talking with officials from Union Twp. Schools she is confident the county will see a special election this year.

Sheriff medical staff

decision delayed

In other matters, Sheriff David Lain was expected to give a recommendation to the Commissioners this week on a company to provide additional medical staffing at the Porter County Jail. About a month ago, Lain said he would like to hire up to 13 new personnel for PCJ and another would be stationed full time at the Juvenile Service Center.

The matter was shelved as Lain said he is still assessing each company that responded to a Request for Proposals issued by the county. Lain said the process now includes consultation from the National Institute of Corrections, the agency which recently made a free technical assistance report of Jail operations.

The sheriff’s department hopes to find a provider soon. Even though the contract is up at the end of this year, Lain said the current provider Advanced Correctional Healthcare has agreed to extend its services until the County makes its determination.

MOU reached for Pines

Meanwhile, the Commissioners entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Town of Pines to use $40,000 of CEDIT money as a match for a grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority of $200,000, a first of its kind.

Doug Olson of SEH and Loukia Verhage who manages the website for the Town of Pines said the grant would aid in the beautification of U.S. 12. The idea is to restore the town to the tourist attraction it once was with small shops and hotels.

“It’s a step back in time,” Verhage said.

In other business:

• The Commissioners approved the 2013 Holiday Schedule. The number of days will be the same but the County will be open Columbus Day and not Dec. 24. “I think (our employees) would rather have Christmas Eve off,” Evans said.

• Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson presented the Right-of-Way Certification for the Dunes-Kankakee Trail. He said the county would not need to purchase any new right-of-ways or require additional land for the trail.

• With the help of certified grant writer Jim McShane, the county will pursue a $500,000 grant from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs for reconstruction of the Sagers Lake Dam in Valparaiso. Thompson said he would also seek grant possibilities for the Opera House, the Expo Center and the IT department.

 

 

Posted 11/23/2012