Sewage problems backing up at Porter County jail
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent January 26, 2014 2:38PM
Sewage problems are causing backups at the Porter County jail. | Post-Tribune File Photo
Updated: February 28, 2014 6:09AM
VALPARAISO — Bed linens, trousers, mop heads and other items flushed by inmates at the Porter County Jail are wreaking havoc on a Sturdy Road pump station, causing ongoing problems for Valparaiso’s utility department.
Steve Poulos, director of the city’s utilities, updated the Porter County Board of Commissioners about the issue last week. The clogs, which have caused sewer backups at the jail on Ind. 49, are costly for the city and could cause the pump to fail.
The city has been working with representatives from the jail and the commissioners to come up with a solution. A study by McMahon and Associates, completed over the summer, offers an assortment of possible solutions, Poulos said, including a rake system.
“As you can see, it’s not a small investment for the county,” Poulos said Tuesday. A rake system costs $300,000 to $350,000.
Commission President John Evans, R-North, said one of the county’s consultants would take a look at the study and the options it offers, with the goal of getting something installed as soon as the weather breaks.
In a related matter, commissioners agreed to move forward with bids for much-needed upgrades for the jail, including the phone system and other technology, and a new air conditioning unit for the E-911 dispatch center, among other improvements.
Funding for the work will come out of $1.5 million from the refinancing of a jail bond. Evans said $1.29 million of that has already been appropriated for work at the jail; with the sewage system fix and other upgrades, “we’re going to be just about over” that amount.
Included in the work is a $119,465 contract with Berglund Construction to ready the B-pod at the jail to accept prisoners; that work is expected to be completed by spring.
In other business, commissioners approved charging a $10-per-visit fee for the health clinic portion of the county’s insurance plan to avoid running afoul of new mandates by the Affordable Care Act.
Clinic visits, provided through Porter Health Systems’ CareEXPRESS clinics, have been free to employees under the plan, but Mike Anton, servicing agent for the county’s health plan, said high deductible insurance plans can’t offer free services, as per Internal Revenue Service.
Evans said it wouldn’t be right to drop the program, and suggested the fee so the county can keep it.
“I don’t see it as unfair,” he said.