Park building caught up in jail dispute

2013-04-23T19:00:00Z 2013-04-24T11:10:05Z Park building caught up in jail disputeBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | It appears the funding for a new park building in the works for 13 years was tied up Tuesday as a result of an ongoing dispute between the county commissioners and sheriff over health care improvements at the jail.

The Park Department's request for $1.5 million from hospital sale interest money failed to garner enough support from the County Council to win approval.

Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, said he thought the park's proposed education and administration center at Sunset Hill Farm County Park was a wonderful idea, but he was unwilling to approve the funding until the pressing medical needs at the jail are addressed.

Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said he also supports the project but was not ready to clear the funding.

County Park Superintendent Walter Lenckos was invited by the council to resubmit his request for consideration next month, but it is unclear whether the jail dispute will be worked out by that time.

The county commissioners surprised Sheriff David Lain in March by announcing they intended to have a financial study done at his department as part of the ongoing effort to bring the jail into compliance with requirements for inmate medical care.

Lain, who questioned the late timing of the move, which interfered with plans to wrap up the upgrades by April 2, said Tuesday he does not understand why the process is taking so long.

The council granted him permission to use $39,000 in unused salaries to increase the pay of one nurse and hire part-time nursing assistance to get through the next five weeks while commissioners process is underway.

Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, said the committee will meet Wednesday and should be done in a couple of weeks reviewing the proposals for the health care upgrades, which vary in cost from about $700,000 to $1.8 million per year.

The proposal is a big increase in cost, which is part of the reason for the special study committee, she said. The committee, which includes Adams, two council members, county attorney and representatives from the sheriff's and health departments, also will determine how many people are needed for the work.

Lain, who said the jail needs a lot more than the three nurses now on staff, is frustrated because his department already has chosen what it needs to get the job done.

His proposal calls for retaining the nursing director as a county employee and having the rest done by private nurses.

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