Safety in Porter County schools mission of new commission
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent May 7, 2013 3:42PM
Updated: August 20, 2013 4:26PM
VALPARAISO – Members of the Porter County Safe Schools Commission outlined their progress Tuesday for the Porter County Board of Commissioners.
“The Sandy Hook tragedy has really brought this again to the forefront,” said Valparaiso Police Chief Michael Brickner, whose department is leading the countywide commission. “It’s not so much if something were to happen here, but when.”
He noted the November 2004 incident at Valparaiso High School in which a student brought a machete and saw to school and seven students were injured.
“We never thought it would happen here, but we had a plan, even back then,” Brickner said.
The commission, which includes law enforcement and educators from throughout the county, started meeting in November.
“We want to develop a coordinated approach to school danger and disaster situations with all the departments in the county,” said Superior Court Judge Mary Harper. There are about 30,000 school children in the county.
The plan also calls for a paid position, possibly on contract, in the judicial system.
Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, said commissioners could offer county economic development income tax money for the rest of the year, since the position was not budgeted by the Porter County Council.
“We would want to make sure it’s not something we’re going to lose,” he said.
In other business, Porter County Sheriff David Lain is close to recommending a health care service provider for the county jail.
Lain said selecting a provider has been “an arduous process,” but he hopes to make a recommendation at the commissioners’ May 21 meeting between Correct Care Solutions in Nashville, Tenn., and Correctional Healthcare Companies in Greenwood Village, Colo.
The annual cost of providing health care at the jail, depending on which provider Lain and a committee of county officials select, will range from about $900,000 to $1.2 million.
Lain has been working to increase medical staff at the jail, and increase coverage to include overnight hours, for several months.
“It’s going to be expensive no matter which way we go with it,” Commissioner Evans said.
In a related matter, Evans took the Porter County Council to task for not mustering the votes at their April meeting to grant Porter County Parks and Recreation $1.5 million in hospital interest proceeds for the Raise the Barn project at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.
The commissioners approved the move last month. While the council voted 3-2 in favor of the funds, two council members were absent and the council did not have the majority needed to move forwarded. The no votes came from councilmen because of the financial matter of funding medical services at the jail.
The council convoluted the two issues, Evans said. The jail will require ongoing funding and the building at the park, a project for 13 years, was a one-time request.
“I’m very disappointed that the council feels they have to hold one project hostage when it’s been ongoing,” Evans said.