VALPARAISO | The Porter County Council on Monday discussed spending $600,000 of interest money from the sale of the hospital to purchase a new building for PACT.
PACT provides programs to help criminal offenders and victims. Its 25 employees currently work out of two houses at 254 S. Morgan Blvd. and 207 Brown St.
The agency is seeking to relocate to a new building at 1356 W. Lincolnway, which was the Legacy Banquet Center.
Porter County PACT Director Tammy O'Neill said the new facility would double the amount of space now available to PACT.
“The building will offer us the opportunity to provide more services,” she said.
One of those new services is an electronic monitoring program that would help reduce the number of people in jail awaiting trial.
Porter County Superior Court Judge Mary Harper said the program is not just about ankle bracelets. It also helps assess offenders' behavior and whether they are improving through PACT programs, she said.
Councilman Jim Biggs said he supports spending the hospital interest money on the PACT building. Four other council members also voted yes in a straw poll.
“Investing the money back into the county will have a real and definite impact on our jail population,” Biggs said. “This is smart government. This is what we should be doing. Not building more jails.”
Council members agreed to postpone a vote on the issue to get more information about the building. The matter will be taken up again at a meeting at 5 p.m. Jan. 7.
In other business, Porter County Sheriff David Lain requested nearly $29,000 be transferred from salaries to medical and hospital services to pay Porter-Starke Services for operating a chemical addictions program.
Lain said the Sheriff's Department used to charge $25 every time someone was booked. If the charges were dropped or people were found not guilty, they would get a refund.
About six months ago, the State Board of Accounts ruled fees could not be collected before a conviction, so Porter County courts started assessing the fee upon conviction, Lain said.
The Sheriff's Department had been collecting about $12,000 a month when it was charging the fee. In the past six months, only about $2,900 has been received through the courts, Lain said.
In another matter, Lain said the nurse at the jail had submitted her resignation, and he asked for funds to help pay for a nurse through the end of the year. The council authorized a maximum of $5,000.
Kim White, a nurse with Advanced Correctional Health Care, had contracted with the county for the past six years.