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Sheriff to clean unused jail pod; opening day pushed back

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

It may be a little early for spring cleaning but Porter County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, instructed Sheriff David Lain to get out the mops and brooms and make sure the jail’s unopened third pod is a clean, healthy environment.

A short time before Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, DLZ Indiana presented their study of the jail’s B pod, reporting on upgrades needed before it can be opened for use.

Improvements, such as new plumbing, painting, and repairing the “normal wear and tear” will cost between $146,000 and $158,000, said DLZ associates Mike Jabo and Stephen Kromkowski.

They also identified several other items needed to improve on operations at the jail totaling more than $700,000, the largest of which is $412,000 for a new video surveillance system. Other items would be a new intercom system and door locks.

The Commissioners took the suggestions by DLZ and unanimously agreed to pursue the purchase of a new water softener system for about $3,400 and new air conditioners in the server room and the 911 dispatch room for about $100,000. They will take a closer look at what other items will cost before considering those improvements, including the housing needs for the B pod.

If the work can be done for less than $150,000 then the Commissioners would not have to go through the trouble of seeking competitive bids for the renovation work.

Jabo and Kromkowski said they will try to get specifications to the Commissioners before their next meeting on Nov. 19.

Any improvements are to be paid for out of the $1.4 million the County acquired from refinancing the jail building bonds earlier last year.

But what seemed to shake Evans the most from the report were pictures of what he called “filthy conditions” pointing to what he thought to be mold in one picture and human waste left in the toilets in another.

“It appears to have just been neglected to tell you the truth,” he said to Lain.

Lain replied that the discoloration in the toilet water was because of rust, not feces, and jail staff has not expended the time or energy for sprucing up the B pod “because there was no necessary reason to do so” and he has instead concentrated his limited labor force to other tasks such as animal control operations at the County Animal Shelter.

The space, Lain said, has been used by his department as storage space and extra parts in case something needed replacing in the jails’ other two pods.

“It’s essentially been a big closet for the last 11 years,” he said.

Evans said he was not questioning the sheriff’s use of his labor force but asked that the B pod be kept clean so as not to pose health risks.

“If we are going to spend all this money on the upgrades, it needs to be clean for health (reasons),” said Evans.

Lain said he would see to it that the pod is sanitized.

“It’s going to be spic and span before human beings will use that space,” Lain told Evans. “It will be clean. It’s not an issue.”

Lain had told the County Council last month that he hoped the B pod could be ready to open by Jan. 1. However on Tuesday he said he expects the nine new jailers will be hired after the first of the year and it will take about two months to train them before the pod will be ready to accept inmates.

Expo Center chief hired

Meanwhile after approving the 2014 list of caterers for the Porter County Expo Center, the Commissioners named their appointment of the Expo’s next manager.

Marcia Hoyt was selected to replace interim director Ken Blaney, who resigned in September after 13 months on the job to direct more of his time to his home repair business.

Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, said Hoyt has a background in management and tourism. Hoyt has owned a bed and breakfast called the Lantz House Inn in Centerville, Ind. for nearly 25 years.

Hoyt’s first day as Expo chief will be Dec. 2.

Centralized purchasing

Per request of the County Council in managing office supply costs across county departments, Evans on behalf of the Commissioners explained how the centralized purchasing system would work.

Evans said a department head or a designee would be able to order paper, pens -- “those things kind of common” -- for their respective offices but any special items would be need to be ordered on a “one-to-one basis” through the County’s centralized purchasing agent in the Commissioner’s office.

The Commissioners have given the duty to their part-time assistant Kathy Merle, who will be bumped up to full time next year.

Offices will not be allowed to spend over what was approved in their budgets from last year, Evans added.

“It’s going to be a new adventure for us and we hope it will go over pretty well,” he said.

Tattoo ordinance

The Commissioners also signed off on a second and final reading for a new ordinance that empowers the County Health Department to inspect and enforce regulations on local tattoo parlors.

Health board attorney Dave Hollenbeck said many tattoo parlor owners have shown support for the new ordinance which goes into effect Jan. 1.

“Hopefully this will provide a clean and safe environment for people who choose to get themselves tattooed, or body pierced,” said Hollenbeck.

Fix the roof

Three county facilities will see fewer to no overhead leaks in the near future.

Based on recommendations made by DLZ, the Commissioners awarded a bid of $113,149 to EC Babilla Roofing of Gary to replace the roof at the County Museum of History with slate-like tiles to preserve the historic appearance.

Babilla was also awarded a contract for roof replacement on the Juvenile Center, using concrete tiles, with a bid of $346,700.

Morris and Sons of Bourbon, Ind. were selected for repairs to the Expo Center roof with a bid of $57,055.

In other matters, the Commissioners approved two memorandums of understanding Ð one between the Recorder’s office and eRecording Partners Network to continue digitizing records and deeds and another allowing the County Parks Department to help the MS4 program educate the public about storm water management practices.

 

 

Posted 11/6/2013