It may become more difficult for inexperienced sewage system installers to
work in Porter County.
On Tuesday, the Porter County Commissioners were approached by Health
Department Administrator Keith Letta and Health Board attorney David
Hollenbeck on the subject of an ordinance that would require individuals or
firms that install onsite sewage systems to be certified by the Indiana
Onsite Wastewater Professionals Associa-tion (IOWPA) and register with the
If approved, the ordinance will take effect on Jan. 1 of next year.
Letta said while such a measure is not mandated by the state, the State
Board of Health does recommend counties have some control over septic system
installation. A majority of counties already do.
The health board decided to go to the commissioners due to a “growing trend”
of collapsed septic systems in both newer and older homes. “We don’t know if
it is a sign of the economic times or just the times themselves. But we have
a problem here in Porter County,” Hollenbeck said.
Letta said that once defective septic systems are placed in the ground, they
have little to no chance of being fixed. “There is no way to replace it,” he
In order to receive certification from IOWPA, Letta said, the installer must
pass an examination. Not having the right certification is a “disservice to
the taxpayer,” Letta said, in that legal costs for the county are involved
whenever the department takes one of these developers to court.
“We want these guys to know what they are doing when they put these systems
in,” he said, adding that many installers favor the permit system.
Since it can create the ordinance, the county can set its own parameters on
what the lot size for these systems need to be, Letta said.
County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, asked why regulation
isn’t handled at the state level, just as permits are for other professions
such as barbers and plumbers. He expressed concern that having the county
make inspections would add expense and said it would be more beneficial if
the state took responsibility.
Letta said the state has experienced staff cuts and does not have the
manpower to carry out the task.
Evans asked that the ordinance be drawn up by Hollenbeck and county attorney
Elizabeth Knight and presented to the commissioners for a vote.
In another matter, Evans said the commissioners are looking at the
possibility of privatizing security at the Porter County Jail and the County
Courthouse which may be a start toward solving the ongoing funding and
The announcement comes after last Thursday’s County Council budget hearing,
when Sheriff David Lain told officials the jail is in need of 16 new jail
officers for adequate staffing at a cost estimated at $1.5 million annually,
an amount that the Council said would not be easy to find at a time when the
entire county budget is in a crunch.
Evans said without the benefit packages paid to the jailers and medical
staff, the county could see large savings if it is turned over to private
firms. The commissioners wish to find out if private entities have a “more
efficient way” of managing jail staff than county government, Evans said.
Also on Tuesday, the commissioners were asked by Donna Criner, co-founder of
the non-profit Northwest Indiana Cancer Kids (NICK) foundation, to help
promote Childhood Cancer Awareness month.
Evans read a proclamation written by Criner into the minutes drawing
attention to the fact that cancer is the number one disease killer of
children and an estimated 13,500 children are diagnosed with cancer each
year in the United States.
The proclamation states that cancer appears in children more frequently than
in any group other than those over age 65.
The message: Childhood cancer research is “vastly and consistently
underfunded.” The National Cancer Institute only spends four percent of its
funding on childhood cancers, the proclamation said.
Criner thanked the commissioners and said more information can be found at
NICK’s website, www.nicancerkids.org
The commissioners also voted unanimously to hire Maris and Son Roofing of
Hobart to do roof repairs on the Porter County Courthouse.
The firm was recommended by DLZ Indiana architect Jason Vetne, with a bid
amount of $203,613, which will come out of county CCD money. “It will be
done this fall,” Vetne said.