The Porter County Commissioners want to take a “pro-active” approach in
aiding the County Council and the Sheriff’s Department, said Commissioner
President John Evans, R-North.
He and fellow commissioners Nancy Adams, R-Center, and Laura Shurr Blaney,
D-South, at their meeting Tuesday said they are willing to pledge upwards of
$2 million in unallocated county economic development income tax (CEDIT)
funds toward two major funding challenges in the 2014 County budgets Ð the
new medical personnel at Porter County Jail and the Enhanced 911
Both were hot discussion topics at the County Council meeting last week when
the Council voted to hire two new medical officers to handle the large
inmate population. The Council also agreed to use $1.1 million of the
hospital sale interest fund toward new protocol software and new consoles to
open up more police and fire channels on dispatch radios.
But Council members like Dan Whitten, D-At Large, felt it would be best for
the Commissioners be in step with the Council as it deliberates strategies
to hire jail staff and to maintain the budget for E-911, as it is reportedly
the rainy day funds for operations may be depleted by next fall.
The Council called for a meeting to openly discuss the funding obstacles
before the Council’s yearly budget work gets underway on Wednesday, Sept.
11. As of this morning, the joint meeting date has yet to be set.
Evans said his board is ready to talk about budgets and is offering up the
“We’re just trying to help out with (the Council’s) plans,” he said. “The
right thing to do would be to get this out in front of all of us.”
The County’s General Fund levy will be less than what it was last year, he
added, although income tax revenues are up this year.
Also, Evans gave the Council a heads up on the Commissioners’ plans to
request during the annual budget hearings this month restoration of $2
million of their health insurance budget to cover the rest of the year.
The Commissioners had their budget slashed by a slim majority of County
Council members last year in the eleventh hour of the 2013 budget hearings
from $9 million to $5,964,986. As of now, there is a balance of $466,738
remaining in the Commissioner’s health insurance funds from that amount
which may or may not run out depending on the number of claims made between
now and the end of the year.
The Council’s financial records show that currently there is $1.6 million in
health insurance funds across all County budgets.
Jail review program
The Commissioners are getting behind an effort with the Porter County
Community Corrections Advisory Board and Porter County PACT on ways to
mitigate the growing number of inmates at the County Jail by placing more
non-violent offenders in monitoring programs.
Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper, who serves on the advisory board, said that
PACT programs currently monitor non-violent offenders after they are
sentenced and are allowed to be removed from incarceration.
Harper and PACT Director Tammy O’Neill proposed extending the services to
those non-violent offenders who are awaiting trial and sentencing
proceedings. The initiative would include hiring one full-time and two
part-time employees from PACT that would make assessments of inmates and
determine which of them are suited for the monitoring programs.
The additional review program has a cost of $147,690, for which the
Commissioners will seek approval from the County Council to draw from
unallocated CEDIT which includes the purchase of 30 GPS monitoring systems.
Harper said costs for the program will be lower next year as the equipment
purchase is a one-time expense.
Using the 30 GPS devices, O’Neill said the County could potentially save up
to $290,310 per year based on what it costs per day to house an inmate at
The program would include daily checks on the offenders and behavior
Harper said the program will be useful to offenders who don’t have the
financial ability to post bail or those who are no-bond continual offenders
who would qualify for electronic monitoring.
Harper said it is an ongoing group effort of the community correction
advisory board, which includes her and O’Neill, Superior Court Judge Julia
Jent, Sheriff David Lain, a County Commissioner, mental health associates
and four citizens, to help alleviate the jail population. The issue ignited
discussion among officials last month as the County received a letter from
the American Civil Liberties Union saying the jail overcrowding conditions
“Everybody is working toward a solution,” said Harper.
In other business, Commissioners approved a first reading of two separate
ordinances establishing two grant funds for the County Parks Department.
A $5,000 grant was received from Arcelor-Mittal Steel, to be used for the
development of outdoor and environmental education.
The other grant, awarded by the Lake Michigan Coastal Program for $31,500,
will go toward physical improvements to the south prairie and pond at Sunset
Hill Farm County Park.
A second reading for the ordinances will be held at the Commissioners’ next
Also, Commissioners approved the contract with Motorola for new console
hardware system that will enable more channels for police, fire, EMS, and
emergency management to operate on. It follows the approval of purchasing
the upgraded system for $907,000 with hospital interest funds from the
Commissioners and the Council last month. The new equipment is expected to
be operable for at least 10 years, E-911 Communications Director Jokantas