Video conferencing coming to Lake County courts
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org July 5, 2012 3:54PM
Updated: August 7, 2012 6:27AM
CROWN POINT — The Lake County commissioners approved a $3.5 million bid to renovate the Lake County Jail’s booking and medical areas and install a video conferencing system for prisoners at its Thursday meeting.
But the 2-1 vote was not without controversy. County attorney John Dull explained that Michigan City-based Larson-Danielson Construction Co., Inc. was the low bidder at $3,522,595. Gary firm Powers and Sons Construction Co. Inc. was about $20,000 higher, but within the 1 percent preference for local firms. But Powers and Sons did not claim the local exemption, Dull said, so the recommendation went with the lowest bid. Firms in counties bordering Lake County — Porter, Newton and Jasper — are eligible for the exemption.
Dull emphasized that the commissioners had to accept the recommendation or face a possible lawsuit from Larson-Danielson.
The jail’s video conferencing system — which costs around $350,000 — will allow inmates to communicate with visitors and to appear in court hearings via a 55-inch monitor. LaPorte County Courts have had a similar system in place for two years.
“The real change is that we don’t have to move prisoners for initial hearings and other court proceedings,” Dull said.
Dull said the county will make sure the setup follows rules established by the state Supreme Court before rolling out the system in the courtrooms of Judge Julie Cantrell and Judge Salvador Vasquez by Dec. 1 — with other county courtrooms to follow. Hobart City Court Judge William Longer will start a pilot system for city and town courts in January.
In other business, the commissioners approved Sheriff John Buncich holding a sale for military surplus OH-58 helicopters and two spare engines. Buncich said he’s asking $150,000 for the items and he has interest from people in North Dakota and California. Friday is the deadline for offers on the items, and proceeds will go toward payments on the department’s helicopter.
“This was supposed to be sold off two years ago when we bought the new helicopter, but that never transpired so the items just sat there,” said commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Merrillville.