County Council is in, mostly, for dishing out hospital interest funds to the
non-profit Porter County PACT’s request of $600,000 to purchase a larger
building on the outskirts of Valparaiso.
But the County
is likely to gain back its investment as the plan could sharply reduce the
existing costs to house inmates at the Porter County Jail and mitigate the
facility’s overcrowding problems.
eyed for purchase is the Legacy Banquet Center at 1356 Lincolnway.
PACT at Monday night’s Council meeting were the agency’s Executive Director
Sharon Mortensen, Porter County Director Tammy O’Neill, and Board President
George Douglas. Joining them in the request was County Circuit Court Judge
The agency works
closely with the county’s Community Corrections program and has been present
in the County for 35 years, offering a variety of referral programs to help
troubled men and women to make changes in their lives.
PACT programs include Adult Drug Court, Stop Abuse and Violence Through
Education, Alcohol and Drug Offender Services, Veteran’s Court, Project
Prevent Re-Occurring Offenses, Electronic Services Monitoring, Community
Transition Program, and Community Service Restitution.
O’Neill said Porter County PACT’s two current locations in residences at 254
S. Morgan Blvd. and 207 Brown St. in Valparaiso are “using every inch of
space.” Having the new building will greatly improve outreach and would
allow an increase the number of people admitted to the programs, they said.
persons admitted to monitoring programs, they would not have to be housed at
the jail. The County pays about $35 a day for each inmate housed (the jail
population is reportedly well over 400), which means savings would add up.
is not regularly funded by the County and has been self-sufficient over the
years with money received from agencies like the Indiana Department of
Corrections, but currently the organization does not have the funds to
purchase the Legacy building.
itself would cost $500,000 but an additional $100,000 would be needed for
expenses like electrical upgrades, a new conference room and signage.
member Sylvia Graham, D-At Large, said she approves of the project at face
value but needs proof that PACT had met the proper requirements to make the
purchase such as inspections and appraisals. She also wanted to assurance
from PACT that the County would not be faced with recurring costs.
Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, who attended a recent seminar about
Community Corrections, believes in the savings potential and moved to draw
from hospital funds. “This is smart government. This is what we should be
doing instead of building more jails. Building more jails doesn’t fix (the
overcrowding situation),” he said.
Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, echoed those comments saying that opening and staffing
the third pod would not solve the jail problems entirely.
The County is
serious about opening up the jail’s third pod which would open up 109 more
beds. With the current two pods, the jail has 350 beds available which still
comes up short with the current number of inmates. Sheriff David Lain
notified the Council and Commissioners in May of the liability issues from
Biggs ended up
rescinding his motion when Council Attorney Scott McClure informed them the
Council could not approve use of hospital interest money Monday because the
PACT request had not been advertised on the meeting agenda.
But the Council
did put the matter to a straw vote which yielded a favorable vote of 5-1
with Graham dissenting because she said she first wants to see an inspection
report on the building.
Absent from the
meeting was Council President Dan Whitten, D-At Large.
Acting as chair
in Whitten’s absence, Council Vice-president Karen Conover, R-3rd, said her
approval came with a caveat that appraisals and inspections be done.
PACT would need to close on the deal by Dec. 28 but it is likely an
extension would be granted while both the County Council and County
Commissioners make their official votes on the $600,000 request.
A majority vote
is required from both boards in order to tap in to the hospital interest
fund. The request has been officially advertised for today’s County
Commissioner meeting and Mortenson said the Commissioners have shown
The Council is
expected to give its official vote at its reorganizational meeting scheduled
for Monday, Jan. 5 at 5 p.m.
If PACT is able
to expand their programs, it will likely mean those convicted on lesser
felony charges can be admitted to monitoring programs before their trial or
sentencing rather than afterwards, Harper said, and added that this would be
the “best option” available to keep the jail from filling up.
Biggs said those
in the monitoring programs can work and provide for their families instead
of sitting in jail.