VALPARAISO | The Porter County Council unanimously backed a proposal Monday to spend $600,000 of interest money from the sale of the county hospital to purchase and renovate a building for the PACT alternative sentencing program.
Porter County commissioners are expected to take up final approval of the purchase Tuesday.
"This is huge," said Sharon Mortenson, executive director of PACT Inc., which operates in nine counties in the state.
She expects to close by the middle of the month the purchase of the Legacy Banquet Center at 1356 W. Lincolnway in Valparaiso. Renovation work will follow and the new site should be open by the end of March or beginning of April.
PACT is currently operating out of houses at 254 S. Morgan Blvd. and 207 Brown St., she said. Both are in a residential area and the Morgan Boulevard site has been in use for 30 to 35 years.
The new building will more than double the available space and allow for three programs to be operating at once compared to the current limit of one, Mortenson said.
Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, said while no one is anxious to spend $600,000, the investment makes sense considering the challenges facing the county jail.
"We can't build our way out of this jail overcrowding problem," he said.
Porter Superior Court Judge Julia Jent said once the new PACT site is up and running, there will be enough room to handle 20 additional qualified offenders.
The county relies on community service workers from PACT to maintain its buildings, according to the council.
The proposed funding includes $485,000 to purchase the building and $115,000 for renovations. The building will be owned by PACT and not the county.
Jent said county commissioners also will be asked to contribute local income tax revenue to help fund programs within PACT, such as electronic monitoring and programming at the jail.