Commissioners take step to open third pod at jail

2013-10-09T13:15:00Z 2013-10-09T23:40:13Z Commissioners take step to open third pod at jailBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
October 09, 2013 1:15 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | The Porter County Commissioners held a special meeting Wednesday morning to initiate a plan to prepare the third pod at the jail to house inmates.

The commissioners agreed to hire the DLZ engineering firm to assess what is needed to make sure the third pod is functional and safe when it is opened, according to Commissioner President John Evans, R-North.

The move was taken in anticipation of the Porter County Council coming to an agreement over how to fund the additional $450,000 a year needed to hire nine new jailers.

The DLZ agreement, which does not have a price limit attached, is being funded out of the $1.4 million generated by last year's refinancing of jail bonds, Evans said. The same money will be used to address whatever problems are discovered in the third pod, he said.

The heat is on to open the third pod at the 11-year-old jail to relieve overcrowding in the wake of recommendations from a federal study and the recent threatening letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

The council was unable to come to an agreement during a budget hearing last week on how to fund the additional jailers.

Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, said Wednesday he hopes the issue is resolved at the final budget meeting Oct. 22 and sees no other way to fund the new jailers than using proceeds from the local income tax.

This proposal has created conflicts with the commissioners, who have traditionally decided how to spend the income tax revenue.

Biggs said decreased property tax revenues and increased costs are requiring the county to retool this approach and rely more heavily on income tax revenue for operational needs. Rather than continuing to rely on reserve funds for these ongoing costs, which has already created shortfalls in areas such as E-911, he suggested redirecting those limited pots of money for the special projects handled by the commissioners and using ongoing revenues for ongoing operational needs.

Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain said he already has received an estimate of $23,400 for plumbing work needed at the third pod and a $75,000 estimate for computer upgrades.

Evans said the group can avoid having to seek competitive bids if costs fall below $150,000.

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