Porter County may use close to $1 million from accrued hospital sale
interest money for the purpose of making system upgrades to its voice and
pager radio systems for local fire departments.
The commissioners gave unanimous nod Tuesday to a recommendation made by the
county’s E-911 Communications Director John Jokantas and Todd Bell, senior
accounts manager with Motorola Solutions, to erect five new
transmitting/receiving stations and nine new stations which would only be
able to receive radio transmissions on channels strictly for fire
County police and emergency services operate on different channels.
Total cost of the installations would be $985,520 but Bell said the move
will save the county tens of thousands of dollars elsewhere because all
emergency channels will need to be upgraded eventually to comply with the
Federal Communication Commission’s Jan. 1 deadline for all public safety
radio systems to begin operating at 12.5 kHz. Systems that were purchased
during the last 20 years typically operate at about 25 kHz, Bell said, and
the FCC wants communication channels to narrowband to support more users.
“Every single system has to conform to that,” Bell said.
Jokantas said installing the systems could take 12 to 14 months, so he will
be filing for a waiver with the FCC.
Since the upgrades are federally mandated, the county has little choice but
to make the purchase. County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North,
said he believes this would warrant proper use of hospital interest funds
since the matter relates to emergency services.
In order to use the funds, the measure will need majority votes from the
commissioners and the county council. Evans said he will see to it that the
request goes before the county council at its next meeting on June 26.
Bell mentioned other benefits that would result from the new radio system,
chiefly safety for the firefighters, increased response time and
reliability. “The voice system is the lifeline for (firefighters),” he said.
The current system is over ten years old and the county has experienced
increased coverage issues gradually over the recent years, most frequently
in the southern areas of the county like Kouts and Hebron but problems have
too been reported by the Town of Porter.
The county currently has one transmitting station located near CR 600N and
Ind. 49 and eight receiving stations, Jokantas said. The new receiving
stations will also allow further communication with neighboring counties
Lake and LaPorte.
The radio system would serve 17 of the county’s 19 fire stations. Portage
and Valparaiso handle their own fire department radios.
In another E-911 matter, the commissioners adopted an ordinance repealing
its current surcharge fees for landline, cell phone and pre-paid wireless
phones and set up a new fund complying with the state’s law establishing
surcharge fees. The measure will go into effect on July 1.
Landline and cell phones will be charged equally $.90 per phone while
pre-paid wireless users will need to pay $.50 each time minutes are added.
Formally the county’s rates were $1.50 for landlines, $.50 for cell phones,
and $.25 for pre-paid wireless.
The amounts are the same in counties throughout the state in an effort to
cover some of the likely shortfalls in operation expenses for E-911 centers.
The money will paid by the county to the newly formed E-911 state board
which will then redistribute the money to the counties based on their
The commissioners repeated their unanimous vote for a second and final
reading establishing a new county redevelopment commission.
The new body will be able to seek grants for economic development and
propose Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts.
Evans said applications will be taken for the five-member board. The
commissioners will make two citizen appointments and the county council will
make one. The remaining two seats are for the commissioner president (Evans)
and president of the county council, Dan Whitten.
Under state statute, a school board member will serve on the board as a
Evans said applications will be due Thursday, July 12 and expects to
announce the appointments at the following commissioner meeting on July 17.
Application forms can be found on the county website under the Forms and
Documents tab. They can also be picked up at the at the commissioners’
office in the county administration center (155 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso,
A few more changes in polling place locations in Portage Township will be in
place for this November’s general elections. The commissioners approved a
request from Voters Registration Democratic Director Kathy Kozuszek to move
Portage precinct 6’s polling place from the Hampton Inn on 6353 Melton Rd.
to the meeting room of Best Western at 6200 U.S. 20.
Also, Portage precincts 19 and 31, which in the past have voted at Our Lady
of Sorrows at 356 Seven Mile Road, will now vote at the South Haven Public
The new locations affect a total 2,361 registered voters who will be sent
letters of notification by the state, Kozuszek said, but some confusion is
still likely to ensue.
Evans took the opportunity to reiterate his wish to see centralized voting
centers in Porter County. A small number of counties in Indiana use this
type of system in which voters can travel to any one of these centers on
Election Day for their convenience regardless of what precinct they live in.
Evans scoffed at the fact the county has 123 polling locations. Centralized
voting could minimize that amount by 66 percent.
Kozuszek said the county could begin discussions to start centralized voting
in 2013 since that is an off-year for elections. She did advise though that
there is not much of a difference between the costs of having voting centers
versus voting by precinct.
“I’ve been talking with the other counties which have (centralized voting)
and the costs are still there,” Kozuszek said.
Also on Tuesday, all three commissioners agreed to establish a new ordinance
in the county employee handbook reflecting the state’s new law to ban
nepotism in governments. The provision is mandated by the Indiana General
Assembly. Counties must adopt the policy on or before July 1. A second part
of that law requires elected officials to disclose publicly any family
relationships they have with associates of firms before a contract can be
In another resolution the commissioners adopted a rule to ban smoking in
Porter County Government building under the statewide smoking ban also
effective July 1. Employees will not be allowed to smoke within 15 feet of
Meanwhile, the commissioners signed off on a $98,520 contract with
Diversified Research and Development LLC, of Portage, to scan and digitally
store images of documents in the county assessor’s office which should free
up space in the county administration building.
County Assessor Jon Snyder said about 135 filing cabinets containing over a
million documents are stationed throughout his offices and storage areas.
Once scanned, the documents can be taken offsite.
“We’re going to thin the files to save money,” said Snyder.
Digitalizing is something Snyder would like to do, making steps toward an
e-Government system which is listed as an objective in the county’s Total
Quality Management (TQM) system.
The costs will be taken out of the county auditor’s non-reverting fund
created with the TQM program.