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Sheriff wants more time for medical staff selection; Evans wants CEDIT

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County Sheriff David Lain said he is still considering proposals for around-the-clock medical care specialists at the overcrowded County Jail.

After proposals were received on Jan. 22, Lain was expected to recommend a firm to the County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday, but said he and county attorney Elizabeth Knight would like a little more time to examine the possible contractors carefully.

“We decided we didn’t want to come to a hasty decision, It’s a big project,” said Lain.

Lain said he expects to have his mind made up “hopefully” by the next meeting on March 5.

According to the request for proposals issued, Lain is hoping to add to his team a physician, eight registered nurses, three licensed practical nurses, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and pharmaceutical services. Lain has also said a nurse will be shared with the Juvenile Center.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, agreed that the sheriff should take the extra time. Although the costs to cover the new medical staff could be extreme and a funding plan is needed, Evans said he hopes it will be a solution to the problems seen at PCJ.

Lain said he has been talking with “all the interested parties.”

Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, said the County Council, which she was previously a member of, once was presented a plan to hire nurses but the request was never granted. She inquired if the County Jail was currently in violation of any federal guidelines.

“I would say no, but we are in need of enhancements at the jail,” Lain answered.

Lain said that this past year the jail has lost more of its medical staff. As of this Monday, Lain said there were three medical workers servicing a population of 430 inmates. For one 24-hour period, he said it takes 4.2 people to fill one position, taking days off and vacations into consideration.

“It’s simply not enough,” Lain said.

Repeating his belief that the less than adequate medical staffing at PCJ is the biggest liability the County faces, Lain said he would like to work to get matters resolved in a timely manner to avoid snafus like the ones seen in the Lake County Jail which is under a federal mandate to provide services.

“We are wanting to get this started,” he said.

For the time being, the jail has extended its contract with Advanced Correctional Healthcare of Peoria, Ill., which is renewed on a month by month basis.

No CEDIT yet

In another jail related matter, the Commissioners approved the purchase of generators from Alternative Energy Solutions for $2,511 to be taken out of county economic development income tax funds.

The funding is contingent however on the County Council’s decision to appropriate CEDIT dollars this year, Evans said. As of now, no action has been made on the Council’s behalf.

“We can’t pay our bills” until the Council approves the funding, said Evans.

A small majority of Council members approved the 2013 County budgets without any CEDIT money carried over. The Council has made CEDIT an issue since it hopes to use the tax for funding basic operations now that the County’s property taxes are no longer sufficient due to the state imposed tax caps.

Without CEDIT at the Commissioners’ disposal, Evans said many projects have stalled, including the $800,000 in current planned drainage improvements and the purchase of new police vehicles. He said the Commissioners receive calls daily from vendors complaining about unpaid bills.

Complaints have also been made to the county auditor, but Evans explained the auditor cannot cut checks until he is directed to do so by the Council which is where the complaints should be directed.

“It’s not the auditor’s fault, it’s not the Commissioners’ fault, it’s up to the Council,” said Evans.

Snow plow fleet almost complete

Also tied to CEDIT is another request the Commissioners are hoping to receive funding for.

The County Highway Department is looking to purchase five single-axle trucks as back-ups for dumping and snow removal. Bid packages were received Tuesday.

Superintendent Al Hoagland said the department has 37 trucks now and 32 of those are less than seven years old, a big difference he said compared to roughly eight years ago when many of the trucks the county owned were more than 20 years old.

The program, started in 2006, to purchase “better built” trucks from brands Mack Truck, Inc. and Peterbilt Motors, which come with a few years warranty, has saved the County somewhere between $40,000 and $70,000 in annual maintenance costs, Hoagland said.

He said the trucks have remained “top of the line” and the department has taken a strong pride in the fleet, “more than anywhere in the state.”

The addition of the five trucks will “complete” the fleet, Hoagland said, and the County will be more than prepared.

“If something gets broken or wrecked, we’re not backed up like we used to be,” he added.

Bid submitted were from Chicago International Harvester for $980,885; Mack Trucks for $988,580; and Truck City for $970,000.

The department will present its recommendation at the March 5 Commissioners’ meeting.

INDOT agreement for trail

In other business, the Commissioners signed off on an agreement with the Indiana Department of Transportation regarding the Dunes-Kankakee Trail.

Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson said under the agreement the county will provide maintenance on the trail in the state-owned right-of-ways at the intersection of Ind. 49 and U.S. 20 in Porter.

Maintenance costs can be paid with the $500,000 grant secured for the trail by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, Thompson said.

Thompson said the Town of Porter has some money left from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to be used for the area. The RDA had approved a total of $1.8 million for the Gateway to the Dunes Project in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Commissioners approved a recommendation by Thompson to hire DLZ Indiana as its contractor to bring the county’s MS4 program up-to-date with IDEM guidelines.

Redevelopment Commission

In another matter, the Commissioners approved a contract not to exceed $16,000 per year for attorney Gregory A. Sobkowski, of Hodges and Davis law firm of Merrillville, to provide legal services for the County’s redevelopment commission. They also approved a contract not to exceed $10,000 per year for Cender and Company of Valparaiso to provide financial advisory services.

The funding will be through CEDIT, contingent on Council approval.

 

 

Posted 2.20.2013