CROWN POINT | Lake County commissioners are joining a lawsuit to keep a Gary courtroom where thousands of child-support disputes are resolved annually from moving south to Crown Point.
The three-member executive board voted to intervene in litigation filed by the cities of Gary and East Chicago and the NAACP to stop Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura from consolidating her child support staff, now split between Gary and Crown Point courtrooms. The move would leave vacant a courtroom she has operated in the Justice Robert D. Rucker Courthouse at Fourth Avenue and Broadway in Gary.
Commissioners Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, and Mike Repay, D-Hammond, said closing the Gary venue would inconvenience thousands, primarily single mothers with children, who use the court. Bonaventura has said the consolidation will make her court more efficient.
Lake Circuit Judge George Paras in Crown Point will hear arguments Friday from both sides about whether to issue a restraining order to block the move.
In other business, the Board of Commissioners steered more than $600,000 in business to more than 30 consultants, many of whom are familiar to county officials.
Commissioners approved more than $187,000 for engineers to inspect, repair and replace county highway bridges and another $120,000 for contracts with Tri-Electronics to update jail security and radio equipment and Ace Exterminating Co. to control insect infestation in the Lake County Jail and other sheriff's buildings. The board also approved contracts to maintain essential computer services.
The Lake County Fire Chiefs Association will be paid $113,600 to assist the Lake County Emergency Management Department's efforts to respond to hazardous material spills. Repay said the chiefs have agreed to inventory the county's hazmat equipment and consolidate assets to improve efficiency.
The commissioners hired Lake Station attorney Adrian Guzman to provide legal advice to Lake County Recorder Mike B. Brown for a contract not to exceed $12,000 this year. The board is renewing a contract with Crown Point lawyer Nancy Moore Tiller to provide legal counsel to the County Clerk Mike A. Brown.
Portage lawyer Ronald Ostojic and Hammond lawyer Michael Stanish will continue pursuing delinquent taxpayers for the county treasurer's office and receive in pay 15 percent of the recovered tax revenues, as they have for a number of years.
Tri-Electronics, Ace Exterminating, the Fire Chiefs Association, Ostojic, Stanish, and Tiller are among a number of county vendors who have been doing business with the county for years and are rewarded with renewals without having to face competition in a bidding process.
Critics of local government complain no-bid contracts raise the cost of operations, but county officials say they ensure new contracts contain either small or no cost increases.