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Leaking juvenile facility roof may be deemed county emergency

Updated: August 18, 2014 9:52AM



VALPARAISO — A leaking roof in the secure part of the Juvenile Service Center means that every time it rains, the fire alarm system goes off and, most times, the building has to be evacuated, including the staff and the children in custody there.

“Things are getting pretty dire,” Alison Cox, director of the Juvenile Detention Center, told the Porter County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

The county already has a contract with E.C. Babilla for just under $370,000 to replace the roof on the east portion of the facility, said Stephen Kromkowski, principal architect with the firm DLZ.

That work hasn’t begun and, when it was considered, the other portion of the roof was not leaking, he said. The additional work, at a cost of about $130,100, could be taken on with a savings of about $6,800, because all of the material for a synthetic slate roof could be delivered on site at once.

“We view this as an unforeseen condition,” Kromkowski said.

The building has been evacuated during a court session, Cox said, and four times over the weekend when storms and the resulting leaking roof set off the sensors for the fire alarm system, which also prompted calls to the Valparaiso Fire Department.

The constant evacuations are disruptive and put staff and children at risk, she said.

“If we don’t reroof that part of the building, we are going to have to replace the fire alarm system,” which will be even more costly, Cox said, adding she also fears the facility won’t pass a fire inspection and the children there will have to be housed in neighboring counties. “I’m greatly concerned.”

Pending the go-ahead from county attorney Betty Knight, who was not at the meeting, commissioners declared the situation an emergency, which would allow the work to be done without going out for bids.

If Knight said the leaking roof does not meet the criteria for an emergency, Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, said the work would be let out for bids.

Funding for the roof work will come from the remainder of a bond for the facility, which will cover $85,000, and from the county’s cumulative capital development fund.



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