Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Chesterton council gets hit by Animal Control sticker shock

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By KEVIN NEVERS

It’s the kind of typographical error that’ll give a clerk-treasurer cold sweats: the simple omission of a zero, such that a four-figure contract price--which as far as the town council knows is the going rate for a particular service--is later revealed to be a five-figure price, and 10 times more expensive.

So it was revealed to the Chesterton Town Council at its meeting Monday night, when members learned that a zero needs to be added to the $3,120 which they’d already voted to pay Porter County Animal Control in 2015.

The true and correct figure: $31,120.

Jeff Biggs, deputy chief of the Porter County Sheriff’s Office, took ownership of that mistake and apologized for it but, speaking from the floor at Monday’s meeting, told the council that the PCSO needs to do a better job of recouping from the towns and cities what he’s calculated to be their share of the cost of maintaining both Animal Control and the Animal Shelter.

Chesterton’s share, Biggs said, is based on the annual number of calls for service within the town’s corporate limits: an average, over the last five years, of 7.8 percent of all Animal Control calls in the county.

Figure it costs $200,000 per year to maintain Animal Control, with most of that sum going to the three officers’ salaries and benefits, Biggs said. Figure it costs another $200,000 per year to maintain the Animal Shelter. Chesterton’s 7.8 percent share of the whole: $31,200.

The kind of funny thing about this is that members at first thought the town was getting a deal. In 2012, Chesterton paid $6,076 for Animal Control services, almost double the price of the typographically challenged contract which they approved at their June 22 meeting.

The other funny thing--kind of--is that Chesterton may have been the only municipality in the county which paid anything at all for Animal Control over the last couple of years, because--as Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, told the council on Monday--through some sort of bureaucratic glitch no one can explain, only Chesterton was getting billed.

Which prompted Member Sharon Darnell, D-4th, to ask Blaney whether she and Biggs plan to hit up the other cities and towns for back payments.

“We thought about it,” Blaney said. “Nobody really has it.”

“I feel like we’re being punished for handing in our homework,” Darnell replied.

Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, had a different bone to pick. The majority of Animal Control calls--about 64 percent--are in the unincorporated townships. Unless the PCSO also plans to get the townships to pay more, “you’re asking the municipalities to subsidize the unincorporated,” DeLaney said.

The townships already pay the lion’s share of Animal Control, Biggs said in response: around $150,000.

“But they’re not going to pay more now,” DeLaney pressed. “I’m talking about a fair playing field for all involved.”

By way of an answer Biggs offered this analogy: “It’s like you want us to police your town but not pay for the service.”

Member Nick Walding, R-3rd, for his part, suggested that Chesterton property owners are getting double-taxed, inasmuch as some portion of both their county taxes and their town taxes is going to Animal Control and the Animal Shelter.

Blaney suggested in turn that the town is welcome to pay for its own animal control officer and facility. “You don’t have to have our service,” she said.

Look, Blaney offered, we’ll phase in the bump over three years, the same way we did Valparaiso’s. “We want to work with you. We’re not trying to fund the whole shelter. We’re just trying to fund a little bit of it.”

Biggs--clearly uncomfortable--concurred. “The Sheriff’s said it, ‘We don’t want to be money collectors.’”

In the end, members voted 5-0 to go for the phase-in, with the understanding that the Commissioners will submit a new contract--specifying the payment terms--for review by Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann.

 

Posted 7/16/2015

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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