VALPARAISO | The Porter County commissioners are exploring the potential of privatizing the operation of the county jail and courthouse security.
Commissioner John Evans, R-North, announced his office will seek proposals to determine whether private firms can provide the services at a better price than county government.
There could be a savings, he said, in no longer having to provide benefits to these groups of employees.
Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain, who left Tuesday's meeting just minutes before the proposal was announced, said by phone he is not opposed to doing a cost comparison.
But any savings gained by hiring a private firm have to be considered along with the quality of service now being provided by his department.
"I think you get what you pay for," Lain said.
Safety is also a concern, Lain said.
"In the long run, it could end up costing you a lot more," he said.
Lain said it is his belief that any changes in the operation of the jail and building security will be a decision shared by the sheriff, commissioners and County Council. County judges also will likely want to have a say in the courthouse security issue, he said.
Evans said one of the issues driving the potential for privatization is the ongoing problem with overcrowding at the jail.
There have been ongoing calls for the county to make more room for inmates by opening the third pod at the jail, south of U.S. 30 along Ind. 49.
Lain estimated last year it would cost the county $500,000 a year to hire the additional staff needed to operate the third pod.
An independent study done at the time placed the additional annual staffing cost at $200,079.