Getting back to business after reorganizing Monday, the Porter County
Council voted 7-0 in favor of providing funds for Porter County PACT to
purchase the Legacy Banquet Center at 1356 Lincolnway, just outside downtown
The purchase will be made with $600,000 of accrued interest from the sale of
Porter Memorial Hospital, an action that will also require a majority vote
from the Board of Commissioners who have voiced support for the project but
have yet to take a final vote.
It is hoped the move will reduce the jail population, which could save the
county as much as $150,000 per year.
Porter County Superior Court Judge Julia Jent, joined by Porter County PACT
Director Tammy O’Neill, indicated that through PACT 122,000 hours of
community service was served last year and on average five individuals are
providing that service each day which otherwise would be an expense to the
With the purchase of the Legacy building Jent said that PACT would be able
to expand services and handle 20 additional offenders from the PCJ when the
building is complete. PACT could also restart its GED programs to help the
offenders and build up its home monitoring services, she said.
Jent said those in the PACT program must meet specific qualifications. The
program only accepts non-violent offenders.
Mitigating jail overcrowding is valuable since it costs the County over $35
daily to house each inmate and the Sheriff has indicated the number of
inmates has overreached the number of beds available.
County Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, said he does not see the purchase of
the building as an expense but rather a reinvestment, a preferable
alternative to constructing more space at PCJ.
“We can’t build our way out of this jail overcrowding problem,” he said.
Fellow County Council member Dan Whitten, D-At Large, who works as a
bankruptcy attorney, said the economic downturn has played a factor in the
hike in jail population numbers.
“In desperate times, people turn to desperation,” he said.
The building will belong completely to PACT, not the County. The agency will
use about $500,000 for the purchase of the building itself and the rest
would be used for upgrades.
O’Neill said the agency would sell off its two residential locations if
currently operates out of, 254 S. Morgan Blvd. and 207 Brown St. in
Valparaiso. PACT Executive Director Sharon Mortensen said the deal on the
new building is expected to close by the end of this month and will be ready
to use sometime this spring.
About a dozen people showed up in support of the purchase. Porter County
PACT has been active for 35 years.
Attorney Scott McClure said the agency had met the guidelines of a second
appraisal and a building inspection, two details the County Council
requested at its last meeting before approving the funds.
The County Commissioners have shown support for the project but have yet to
take an official vote on use of hospital sale interest money.
In a separate matter, the Council voted 7-0 in favor of job title changes
for the Enhanced 911 Communications Center, but did not grant the requested
raise in salaries to go with them.
The Commissioners last month approved E-911 Director John Jokantas’ plan to
give one of his employees the task of an accreditation manager and another
to be the department’s quality assurance manager. Neither employee will see
their salaries increase to $38,500, at least not just yet.
Biggs told Jokantas that the Council plans to have a “lengthy” discussion
with the Commissioners about using more county economic development income
tax for E-911 operations and asked him to be patient on funding requests.
“We will get to them as soon as we can,” Biggs said.
Jokantas said having an accreditation manager and a quality assurance
manager will open the door for more federal grant opportunities.
The center is cutting costs by having staff share more responsibilities when
a worker retires instead of making new hires. Jokantas said that he was able
to come in under budget in 2012 by about $330,000 and 2013’s figure would be
$60,000 less, even with the salary increases.
Park land in
Before recessing, Council member Jim Polarek, R-4th, told the Council that
in fulfillment of a “parting request” made by retiring South County
Commissioner Carole Knoblock, he, Graham, new South County Commissioner
Laura Blaney and the county parks department have located a parcel
“somewhere in south county” with flat land suitable for the Parks department
to develop baseball/softball and soccer fields.
Polarek said the owner is in discussions with the County about selling the
land and more details will be announced at Thursday’s county park board