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Porter Council supports using hospital interest money for PACT building

Updated: December 17, 2012 10:35PM



VALPARAISO — The Porter County Council on Monday gave preliminary — and provisional — support to the use of $600,000 in interest money from the sale of the hospital for the purchase of a new building for Porter County PACT, which offers programs to offenders referred for participation through the court system.

The matter is expected to come before the Porter County Board of Commissioners during their Tuesday meeting.

Use of the hospital interest money — that now totals about $11 million, with the principal from the sale at about $160 million — requires a simple majority of both bodies.

The proposed use of the interest money needs to be advertised, so the most the council could do at their meeting was affirm their support for the building purchase, council attorney Scott McClure said. The council is expected to vote on the matter next month.

PACT’s services are now divided between adjacent houses in a residential neighborhood, at 254 Morgan Blvd. and 207 Brown St., said the agency’s executive director, Sharon Mortensen.

The agency is in the process of purchasing Legacy Banquet Center, 1356 Lincolnway, which will provide better parking and more space for programs, she said.

PACT will earn the council’s final approval after taking care of some details, including providing the council with building appraisals, meeting with the commissioners, and having the building inspected.

Sylvia Graham, D-At-large, voted against the funding until she receives additional information, but said she is in favor of using the hospital money for the building.

The rest of the council supported the purchase outright.

“This is a whole lot of money, but it is being spent without recurring costs to county government,” said council member Jim Biggs, R-1st District, adding the money is being invested in programs that are critical for the county.

In a move to help alleviate overcrowding at the Porter County Jail, representatives of PACT, along with Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper, also offered preliminary information on setting up a pre-trial and pre-sentencing diversion program using electronic monitoring and counseling programs.

“Community Corrections is the best option we have to not filling (the jail) up,” Harper said.

PACT already provides similar programs for offenders sentenced to state prison.

The council also recognized Commissioner Carole Knoblock, D-South, whose second term as a commissioner is coming to an end. Knoblock, who did not seek reelection, also served on the county council for two terms.

Additionally, the council recognized Councilwoman Laura Blaney, D-At-large, who has been elected to replace Knoblock as commissioner. She served a total of six years on the council.



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