Winter storms taxing county resources

2014-01-07T19:12:00Z 2014-01-07T19:52:11Z Winter storms taxing county resourcesBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
January 07, 2014 7:12 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Porter County government took quite a hit from the winter storms that have belted the area since the start of the new year, officials reported Tuesday.

The county highway department has burned 5,987 gallons of diesel fuel since Jan. 1, the 42 employees worked 1,137 hours of overtime and 2,000 tons of material were dropped on roadways for safety, County Highway Department Supervisor Al Hoagland told the Porter County Board of Commissioners.

"I think we put on a pretty good effort," he said.

The bitter cold has made the efforts difficult by causing mechanical problems, freezing materials in the trucks and leaving fuel pumps unable to work, Hoagland said.

The efforts to clear snow from roadways continued Tuesday, including work in the subdivisions, he said.

Emergency phone operators also were busy over the last few days.

The county received 1,458 calls Sunday and another 1,829 Monday, when the daily average is typically 450, said John Jokantas, county director of communications.

Most of the calls came through on the seven-digit phone line, he said, as compared to 911. Many of the calls regarded slideoffs and disabled vehicles, he said.

Russell Shirley, Porter County Emergency Management director, said 18 inches of snow fell over the past three days.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners renewed a contract with Porter Health Care System as provider of clinic services to county government employees.

Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, read into the record a conflict of interest disclosure form revealing that his wife, Laurie Wehner-Evans, works for the hospital.

Evans said neither he nor his wife benefit financially from the arrangement, which is in its second year.

Evans also drew attention to the announcement that the county saved $183,576 in its first year by replacing HealtheACCESS with Porter Regional Hospital's CareEXPRESS.

Records related to that switch and conflict of interest forms filed by county officials were targeted recently as part of an FBI investigation into county government.

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