Porter County Sheriff David Lain said an April 1 opening date for the B pod
at Porter County Jail is still in the cards but many steps must be taken to
reach that goal.
County Commissioners John Evans, R-North, and Nancy Adams, R-Center, whose
board oversees the jail, voiced their commitment to approve funding for a
number of improvements at the jail which may end up using the roughly $1.5
million available from the 2012 refinancing of the jail building bonds.
One of those steps will be to install a new grinder station to resolve the
issues with sewer lines due to items flushed into them by jail inmates. Lain
said the problems have persisted over the years and one time caused a major
sewage backup in December 2012.
The sewer lines contained steel hooks to catch flushed debris but
occasionally large items would break the hooks off and end up causing clogs
at the Sturdy Road pump station managed by the City of Valparaiso.
Valparaiso Utilities Director Steve Poulos told the Commissioners the pump
station is “a critical artery to its system” serving the Silhavy Watershed
and its connection at its other pump station at Horseprairie.
Poulos said that since 2009, city utility workers have had to make 191
visits to the Sturdy Road pump station to remove obstructions which has
added up to thousands of dollars in labor costs. The type of debris
recovered from the jail includes “bed liners, undergarments, trousers and
mop heads,” Poulos said.
A study by McMahon and Associates last summer to find a possible solution to
the problem suggested installing a new grinder station at the jail which
could cost from $300,000 to $350,000, Poulos said.
Poulos gave three reasons fixing the problem is important Š it would prevent
“operational chaos” for the Sheriff’s Department, it would save the city
money the recurring repair costs, and it would also accommodate the
additional gallons of sewage from the development of Pratt Industries near
U.S. 30 on the east side of Ind. 49.
Evans said he would like to cooperate on the Commissioners’ end to install
the grinder station. He would first like to consult the McMahon group study
to get a better idea of the price and pledged to “get this taken care of as
soon as the weather breaks.”
In a related matter, Lain sought improvements to the jail suggested in the
recent report by consultants DLZ Indiana. Surveillance and security system
upgrades could cost up to $700,000 and an update to the telephone systems
would be about $200,000.
The Commissioners have already paid about $150,000 for the preparation of
the unused B-pod and to replace the air conditioning unit in the Enhanced
911 dispatch room.
Lain and Evans both felt it would be worthwhile to do all the upgrades
“We are going to be playing catch up with this so we’re going to have to get
it done,” said Lain.
Evans said he would like it if all the upgrades could be made with whatever
is left in the bond refinance funds.
A pre-construction meeting for the B pod work will take place next week.
Lain said that the new jail officers will also be in training, hopefully to
be ready for an April 1 opening.
Also, the Commissioners approved $10,600 to continue having X-ray machines
at the County Courthouse and the North County Complex, which will be paid
out of the data and technology line item in the sheriff’s budget.
The service was originally paid for from the offenders’ booking fee which
has not been generating necessary revenue since it was amended so that only
those found guilty of an offense pay the fee.
Evans said he would like to study the fee for problems that could be fixed.
The board also approved specs to be advertised for new vehicles for the
Clinic service fees
In other business, Mike Anton of Anton Insurance, the County’s servicing
agent for its employee health plan, informed the Commissioners a change had
to be made in the plan contracted with Porter Regional Hospital’s
CareExpress clinical and wellness services.
Anton said that to be in compliance with the Affordable Care Act, the County
cannot provide a free service and will need to decide on a fee to charge for
clinic visits or else face discontinuing the program.
The fee could be minimal, Anton said, and the Commissioners ultimately
decided to keep the contract and set a fee of $10 per visit.
“It would not be right to pull the rug right out from under our employees
because the Obamacare plan has a flaw,” Evans said.
Anton said he has been in contact with U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly to see if
there would be a way the County could continue the plan without having to
charge a fee.
Tabled from the Commissioners’ reorganizational meeting this month, the
Commissioners announced Jon Miller as an appointment to the Jail Museum
Advisory Board and Rick Burns to the Plan Commission.
Two more openings still need to be filled on the newly formed Museum
Advisory Board. Anyone interested in applying please contact the
Commissioners’ office, Evans said.
The meeting Tuesday did not include County Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney,
D-South, who was absent.
Thus, Evans and Adams withdrew a few items from the agenda such as the Plan
Commission business of rezoning two parcels in Portage Twp.
Evans also put on hold the discussion of matters regarding the legal
challenge to the ordinance to modify the County Council districts.
A special meeting will be advertised as soon as LaPorte County Circuit Court
Judge Thomas Alevizos rules on the matter, which the judge indicated would
be sometime this week.
Evans said the Commissioners’ special meeting could be this Friday or
possibly early next week as the law requires 48 hours prior notice for a