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Porter council approves new Pact building from interest money

Updated: February 9, 2013 6:19AM



VALPARAISO — A newly reorganized Porter County Council got right to work Monday, granting one request and partially denying another.

The council unanimously approved $600,000 in interest money from the sale of the former county hospital for the purchase of a new building for Porter County PACT, which offers programs to offenders referred to participation through the court system.

The new building — the agency’s services are now divided between adjacent houses in a residential neighborhood, at 254 Morgan Blvd. and 207 Brown St. — will mean PACT can expand its services along with its square footage.

Superior Court Judge Julia Jent said 20 offenders could be released from the Porter County Jail immediately, if they met the parameters of PACT’s programming, and more could follow, helping alleviate overcrowding at the jail. PACT’s expanded programming also could include GED classes and other offerings at the jail.

Offenders going through PACT put in 122,000 hours doing maintenance for the county last year and, on any given day, about five are fulfilling community service requirements through that program, said Tammy O’Neill, PACT’s director.

The commissioners approved release of the funds last month, when the council gave the matter a provisional go-ahead, pending a building inspection and appraisal of Legacy Banquet Center, 1356 Lincolnway, in Valparaiso.

The funds will be split, with $485,000 going toward purchase of the building and the remaining $15,000 for renovation. PACT will maintain ownership of the building.

PACT expects to close on the banquet facility by mid-January, said its executive director, Sharon Mortensen, with renovations starting in March, after Legacy completes its banquet obligations.

In other business, the council gave the go-ahead for a dispatcher with Porter County 911 to take on added responsibilities as accreditation manager as the department moves forward with a national accreditation program, but denied director John Jokantas’s requests for raises for his department and the hiring of a quality assurance manager.

Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st District, asked Jokantas to be patient with the council as members discuss how to spend 911 funds collected by the state from phone fees.

Jokantas said his department was about $330,000 under budget last year and, even if the council had granted the raises, would have come in more than $60,000 under last year’s budget.

Additionally, Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd District, is serving as president, and Jim Polarek, R-4th District, is now vice president.



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