The Porter County
Council debated a request to use $40,000 in grant funds to provide raises to
four of the six victim advocates at the County Prosecutor’s Office at its
meeting Tuesday night.
Prosecutor Gary Germann has six victim advocates, four of whom are paid
solely from a federal domestic violence grant that the County applies for
every two years. They’re paid annual salaries of $35,000, and Germann
requested an additional appropriation to use the extra $40,000 he was
awarded this year to bump each of their salaries up to $45,000.
Vice-president Mike Jessen (R-4th) and member Greg Simms (D-3rd) noted the
increase is substantial and questioned how the inequity in pay might affect
morale for the two victim advocates who are on the County’s payroll. They
are paid $37,950 and $36,050, respectively, according to County Auditor
Germann said he
didn’t anticipate an issue. “Lately we have become more of a family, so it’s
not one person trying to step over another,” he said. “I’m going to say,
knowing those two people as well as I do, that’s going to be their
The grant funds
cannot be used to boost pay for County employees, Germann said. He added
that the grant-funded victim advocates do not benefit from County-wide
Germann said he
“shot for the moon” by asking for additional money to give raises, and was
pleasantly surprised he got it in spite of expectations that grant funding
would be scarcer due to impending economic fallout from the COVID-19
pandemic. “They gave us everything we wanted,” he said. “I think some of
that was based on looking at the statistics of the number of cases that they
handle in relation to the County.”
Sylvia Graham (D-At-Large) and Bob Poparad (D-1st), along with Jessen, said
they remained uncomfortable with the pay disparity. Simms sided with Germann,
however, after discussion. “As awkward as it seems, it’s your department.
You know it better than I do,” Simms said.
Council member Dan
Whitten (D-At-Large) was ultimately reluctant to turn down a federal grant
and motioned for approval. The raises were approved 5 to 2 with Poparad and
Jessen dissenting. Graham noted she voted yes “very reluctantly.”
The Council also
heard an update on capital projects from Scott Cherry of Skillman
Corporation. Skillman has been the construction manager on the County’s $30
million Capital Improvement plan since its inception in December 2018.
Then, Cherry said,
the focus was on the historic Porter County Courthouse, North County
Complex, and the Expo Center. Work was completed as expected at those
locations, and additionally at the old jail building at 157 Franklin Street
that the County bought back from a private owner in April 2018. The goal was
not only to complete improvements, but to emphasize local involvement and
transparency. “And that’s what we’ve achieved,” he said.
Cherry reported the
County awarded 34 prime contracts over the course of the capital
improvements plan, and 33 of those contracts went to companies in Lake and
Porter counties. “We used 100 percent union contractors and workers,” he
added, and said the projects created between 115 and 135 jobs, some of which
All in all, Cherry
said the projects came in overbudget by only $9,300, in part due to
previously unknown soil issues at the North County Annex site and electrical
issues at the Expo Center. “Currently, the only thing left is final touches
over at the Annex and at 157 Franklin. We’re very close to occupying that.
Furniture’s been ordered,” he said.