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County to regulate tattoo shops; 911 upgrade set

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Routine checkups of local tattoo and body piercing business are to fall under the auspices of the Porter County Health Department according to a new ordinance approved by the County Board of Commissioners Tuesday on first reading.

Attorney for the Board of Health David Hollenbeck said the board supports safety standards as they are reflected in the Indiana Department of Health standards. The state does not have an agency that actively inspects these facilities to make sure the regulations are being followed, he said.

The Board of Health has also noticed a rise in the number of tattoo/piercing parlors, about 10 in the county currently, and Hollenbeck said the goal is to “get ahead of the curve” as only a handful of counties in Indiana have adopted ordinances giving them regulating authority.

“We believe it’s a growing phenomenon in our county,” Hollenbeck said.

In drafting the ordinance, the health department had collaborated with several owners of such establishments who Hollenbeck said enthusiastically support having a set of safety regulations implemented. One such owner was Drew Thomas, owner of Bluebird Tattoo in Portage, who attended the meeting and advocates the ordinance.

Under the ordinance, health department personnel will check to ensure that tattoo artists have certifications from the American Red Cross proving they’ve been trained to use the equipment. Inspections will also see that sanitation procedures are being followed, such as using fresh needles or razors, paper towels, single use markers and stencils, and general cleanliness, said Kelly Cadwell, environmental health specialist for the Health Department.

The ordinance also calls for the department to charge an annual permit fee of $100, Hollenbeck said, and it sets up procedures should a shop be found in violation. In those cases, the department would alert the owner that their license could be revoked if the matter isn’t resolved and they may undergo a show-cause hearing, which is similar to how the County regulates restaurants, but often the violations are resolved, Hollenbeck said.

Hollenbeck commented he is “very impressed” with the professionalism shown by the shop owners of the tattoo parlors he’s talked to and is “optimistic” the ordinance will work well.

“We will have high quality, clean tattooing going on in Porter County,” he said.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, told Thomas that he commends the shop owners for their willingness to work with the County.

The Commissioners approved the measure 3-0.

They also unanimously approved a second reading of the proposed amendments to the county ordinance establishing a fee structure for food service establishment permits, with a few changes.

Whereas on first reading the proposed fees were $200 for any facility less than 3,000 sq. ft., $350 for those between 3,000 and 10,000 sq. ft., and $500 for facilities more than 10,000 sq. ft., now a fourth category has been added. Businesses between 10,000 and 15,000 sq. ft. will be charged $500 and those more than 15,000 will be charged $600.

Hollenbeck said the modifications were suggested once it was apparent that there were more restaurants with more than 10,000 sq. ft. than was first thought. Those over 15,000 sq. ft. are primarily grocery stores.

If complaints are lodged over fairness of the new fee structure when it takes effect, Hollenbeck said he would talk to the Commissioners about possible changes next year.

911’s last big deal

In other business, the Commissioners voted 3-0 to approve what 911 Communications Director John Jokantas said is the final big purchase in providing his department with up-to-date dispatching equipment.

The board signed off on a $236,820 with Tiburon Public Safety Software for a countywide mobile data computer system for all police and fire vehicles.

Jokantas proposed to take the money out of his rainy day fund, which he hopes he can later replenish by transferring money from other funds within his budget.

Previous upgrades to radio equipment have been paid out of the County’s hospital interest fund, which Jokantas said he hopes to avoid asking officials to draw further from.

Before the vote, Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South asked Jokantas if there would be any repercussions if they decided they needed more time to consider the agreement.

“We’re tight on money right now,” she said.

Jokantas said that the price for the software will double after the first of the year with the licensing fee being the most expensive portion.

Jokantas said he is on the County Council’s agenda for next Tuesday where he will ask the members to appropriate funding. While he sees the upgrades as important, Jokantas said his department can still manage if the request is voted down.

Evans voiced concerns over the software provider as there have been issues with upgrades. Jokantas said the company has improved and having the 911 centers make the upgrades makes it less expensive for them to operate.

Evans then expressed his support saying he feels the emergency responders should have the equipment they need to do their jobs.

“We want the best there is and to do that we have to have the resources,” Evans said.

Redistricting meeting

The Commissioners will meet next Tuesday at 10 a.m. to finalize maps reflecting proposed changes to the four County Council districts.

Evans said the County received a letter earlier this month from Association of Indiana Counties which said a group of students and faculty from Depauw University have studied council district maps for over 80 Indiana counties and those counties not in compliance with statutory requirements could face lawsuits.

The group developed a website http://indianalocalredistricting.com showing the census data for the counties and came to this conclusion:

“Although Porter County redistricted its county council in 2011, and did an admirable job of making the districts more compact, the population deviation is an unacceptable 25%. Thus the districts need to be redrawn.”

The maximum allowable deviation for local governments is 10 percent, the site said.

Evans said state law allows for redistricting to be done in a non-election year. The state gives the responsibility of redistricting to counties’ executive bodies.

Also:

*  A request by Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos to hire SEH Inc. to do the design and engineering work for a new trail system at Brincka-Cross Gardens County Park. The contract for $54,500 will be paid with $15,000 of grant money from the Lake Michigan Coastal Program and the other $39,500 will come from the remainder of the $60,000 in CEDIT the Commissioners allocated to the Parks Department for park enhancements.

*  The Commissioners renewed an agreement with McShane Hunter and Associates for $19,000 for grant writing services next year. The firm will work to help get grants for the Parks Department and the Memorial Opera House.

*  The Commissioners also authorized $188,745 to be given to the Porter County Substance Abuse Council collected from various fees. The money will be used for grant purposes to applicants who qualify in three areas - drug prevention, treatment and justice.

The board also designated Oct. 21-31 as Red Ribbon Week which will begin with a kick-off event at Portage City Hall at 10 a.m.

 

Posted 10/16/2013