Chesterton Tribune



Porter County radio system could go live next spring; EMA chief named

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The Porter County Board of Commissioners is nearly ready to present its plan for the 800 megahertz emergency radio system project to the County Council.

Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, said that if the Council moves the plan ahead, the system could be running in the first quarter of 2018. The need to switch to 800 MHz was pushed by the Integrated Public Safety Commission a little more than a year ago. The system is what other counties in Indiana have upgraded to. The emergency agencies in the county would be able to talk to each other, and to other counties in the state, through radio.

For about a year, the County and municipalities have strategized to come up with the funds needed as the Commissioners realized they could not pay for the upgrade alone. Towns like Chesterton and Burns Harbor have ponied up to purchase their radios, while others have sought grants.

In the south half of the county, the townships of Morgan, Pleasant and Boon Twp. received a grant of around $700,000 for equipment a few months ago. The Commissioners agreed 3-0 to honor the request to provide a 10 percent match for the grant in the amount of $67,000.

Good and Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, commended the efforts by the fire departments as studies by Umbaugh & Associates indicated there was “not much meat on the bone” on the County’s part to help pay for the radios. “This is a really big deal. I can’t tell you enough how this moves us into the future as a county,” said Good.

Formal costs will be presented to the Council at its meeting next week on Sept. 26. The Commissioners are working with Motorola for the implementation of the system and earlier talks put the cost at over $5 million.

Good said a lot of the work now involves installation of cell towers.

During the meeting, the Commissioners voted in favor of two agreements dealing with cell towers.

First, a memorandum of understanding was created between the Commissioners and the Porter Township Government Board for a new 911 cell tower on a parcel of land belonging to the Porter Twp. Trustee’s office. The MOU describes the role of the two boards in terms of reasonability for maintenance of the tower.

Second, the Commissioners approved a tower licensing lease agreement with Aqualand Com-munications Inc. to use one of the cell towers in LaPorte County for the 800 MHz radio system.

EMA leader

In other public safety business, the director of the County’s new integrated 911 Communications and Emergency Management Agency Mike Brickner introduced his new deputy who will be overseeing the EMA department in Porter County.

Valparaiso resident Lance Bella started his role on Monday. He previously worked as chief and master chief at U.S. Steel in Gary.

“(Bella) will take EMA to a new level in Porter County,” said Brickner.

IT audit

The Commissioners at their previous meeting called for an audit of the County’s “archaic” IT system and have chosen RSM, one of the largest public accounting firms in the nation with experience in government IT audits, to study what the infrastructure needs are. The audit cost would range from $22,000 to $24,000, according to Good.

“This is the first step to start down that path,” Good said. “We felt (RSM) was the right match in what we’re asking for.”

“I’m looking forward to getting it done. This is another thing that is long overdue,” said Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South.

Animal Shelter fund

Last spring’s retooling of the Animal Shelter and Animal Control ordinances will require the Commissioners to create a new non-reverting fund for the receipt of fees from local municipalities. The Commissioners voted 3-0 on first reading for an ordinance to establish the fund for Animal Shelter services.

County Attorney Scott McClure said this will keep the funds collected from cities and towns in their own separate fund and maintain a clear line of accounting.

The Commissioners also voted 3-0 in favor of amending the County’s Animal Control ordinance on first reading. The revision is to clarify the guidelines for Animal Control Officers to assess for impoundment of animals, specifically dogs if they have bitten a person or another animal.

“This just helps clear things up because before (the ordinance) was a little vague,” said Animal Shelter Director Toni Bianchi, who now oversees the County’s Animal Control unit.

Other business

-- IT Director Don Wellsand presented a contract with NITCO to run fiber optics between the County Administration Building and the Courthouse which are two blocks from each other. Wellsand said the new optic line will provide better speed for internet connection between the two buildings. The Commissioners approved the contract for $11,032 which includes labor and materials.

-- Portage resident David Fagen was reappointed to the Gary/Chicago Airport Authority.

-- Rhonda Young has been named Office Manager of the Commissioners Office.


Posted 9/22/2017




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