The Starke County Commissioners may opt for quality over quantity when it comes to the comfort of courthouse staff in the proposed renovation plans. They’re in the midst of finalizing the bid packets for updates to the courthouse and renovations of the former jail across the street. Continue reading
The Starke County Commissioners last week reaffirmed their commitment to building a new hospital in Knox. County officials are still negotiating with Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, which recently acquired 80-percent ownership of IU Health Starke and LaPorte Hospitals. The county owns the current hospital building and land on which it sits. Commissioner Kathy Norem quoted an email received by the commissioners stating they are “ignorant, clueless and intentionally blocking the building of a new facility.” She says they want to ensure adequate services are provided. Continue reading
A murder trial scheduled to start April 13 in Starke Circuit Court has been pushed back to at least July so the defendant can have surgery deemed medically necessary by a provider under contract with the county. Gary Chavez is accused of beating his estranged wife, Kimberly Chavez, to death at their rural California Township home last June. From there police say he drove to Mark Bailey’s Discount Center, kidnapped an employee and drove to English Lake where he’s accused of stealing a second vehicle. Chavez then led police on a high-speed chase into LaPorte and Porter Counties, according to court records. He’s accused of stealing a third vehicle in Kouts and continuing into Lake County. Police there say Chavez shot himself in the face when officers in Crown Point managed to stop his vehicle. He was airlifted to a Chicagoland area hospital and released to the custody of the Starke County Sheriff last August. Chavez remains in jail. Continue reading
Starke County officials are making plans for a May 22nd open house to celebrate the completion of the Starke County Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center. Contractors are putting final touches on the new facility east of Knox on State Road 8 and will have the building ready to turn over to the county by May 1st. Continue reading
As of last night, Starke County Highway Department snow plow drivers had worked 24 of the past 36 hours clearing ice and snow from roads. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler shared that information with the county commissioners during their meeting last night. Commissioner Kathy Norem praised their efforts and noted the county roads are in better shape than state roads 8, 23 and U.S. 35. Continue reading
The Starke County Commissioners will revisit whether to offer a long-term contract to Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler when they meet Dec. 1. Commissioner Kent Danford previously raised concerns about the precedent such an action would set. He says possibly offering Ritzler a contract is a “test case” and adds he will say no to anyone else who requests a long-term employment contract until he sees how this works. Continue reading
The future of seasonal camping at the Bass Lake Beach and Campground is in the hands of the five yet-to-be-named Starke County Park Board members. The county commissioners previously announced plans to limit camping to 15 days at a time after this season concludes but have not yet sent a formal notice to manager Richard Callahan and his attorney David Wallsmith. They contend those statements have caused damage to the business, as many campers are uncertain whether they will be able to return next year. Continue reading
The current Starke County Jail in downtown Knox will still be owned by the county and used for correctional programs once the new Starke County Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center east of Knox on State Road 8 opens next year. Commissioner Kathy Norem says the building is part of the collateral for the loan to build the new structure, so it cannot be sold or torn down and must be used in the justice arena. She says the county set aside money to renovate the building. Continue reading
He told them last week the county does not presently qualify for a lot of money available from the state because there’s no roadway user tax in place and said he would like to talk to the council about the costs and benefits of a wheel tax at various levels. Ritzler says counties that collect a wheel tax have some of the best roads in the state because all of the money that is collected is used to maintain and improve them.
Commissioner Kathy Norem says the county’s only commitment right now is to be part of the 92 county torch relay in 2016. According to the bicentennial website, it’s “designed to promote and unify the state by connecting people, communities and regions. Hoosiers will also symbolically “pass the torch,” connecting past and current generations to future ones to IGNITE our future.”
With record-breaking highs yesterday, many communities in the area established cooling centers to provide citizens with a place to cool off. Visitors to the Starke County 4-H Fair had to tolerate high 90-degree temperatures that felt hotter than 101 degrees with the humidity.
Fortunately, IU Health Starke Hospital put its Health Mobile to good use providing visitors with a place to go to get out of the sweltering heat and take a break. Hospital Interim President David Hyatt said the Health Mobile will help stave off heat exhaustion for fair-goers.
The members of the Starke County Jail Committee are planning jail tours for next week.
Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem said that the members will be visiting the Porter County Jail and the Jasper County Jail to view the size of the facilities and to see if those jails would match the needs of a facility in Starke County.
Starke County Auditor Kay Chaffins has asked Starke County Highway Department Superintendent Steve Siddall for an accounting of all scrap metal items sold at the garage. She said her records showed there hasn’t been an accounting of these sales since 2008.
She passed out a December article from New Albany, Indiana at this week’s Starke County Commissioners meeting that stated the State Board of Accounts had released its investigation into the Floyd County Highway Department which concluded that over $11,000 in receipts were not accounted for from 2006 until the end of 2011. The report also concluded that more than $5,000 was deposited into a private account by the department’s head.
The regular meeting of Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County was held Wednesday and produced no action on the status of Jennie Carter as Coalition Coordinator of Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County. The President of Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County, Judy Jelinek, said no action could have been taken as the lack of a quorum prohibited the Board to conduct business.
Another meeting has been scheduled for 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, February 15th at the Girl Scout Cabin in Knox. Carter is still the Coordinator, and Jelinek said that the executive session is scheduled to discuss personnel matters. A yet to be announced open meeting for the public and press will be held after the executive session. No time or location has been announced for that public meeting.
The Starke County Jail Committee continues its quest in trying to decide what to do about the Starke County Jail. Starke County Commissioner, Kathy Norem, was asked where the Committee stands on their discussions.
“We have a needs assessment that has been sent out and we should receive the request for proposals from companies to do a needs assessment for us,” she replied. “Once those are completed and the study has been done, then I believe that we will need to bring that to the people and show them what the results of that study were that show us exactly what we should be doing for the jail; whether that be an addition, some sort of renovation, a new facility, and if so, what kind of new facility.”
The Starke County Community Jail Committee will meet this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. in the County Annex building.
One agenda item is the scheduling of public meetings to inform the public of the options to solve the jail problems. Commissioner Kathy Norem, who is chairing the committee, conceded that specific plans have not been formulated, but the public will be brought up to date on where the committee is at this point in time.
A hearing will be held in Jasper County today on Linda Belork’s request to have a court-imposed Temporary Restraining Order removed allowing her to return to her duties as the Starke County Treasurer. Belork has been out of the office since August 13th after being removed by the County Commissioners following the issuance of a State Audit showing thousands of dollars in discrepancies.
The money has been found, but Belork has been blocked by the order from returning to office. Objecting to her return are the Starke County Commissioners. Judge John Potter will be seeking pertinent information from Belork’s attorney, Ethan Lowe, and Martin Lucas, attorney for the commissioners, during today’s hearing.
Calling the future of IU Health Starke Hospital and the decision to be made on the Starke County Jail the two most important issues over the next five years, Commissioner Kathy Norem said a night should be devoted to providing information to the public on both issues.
The hospital administration was to attend the September 19th regular meeting of the Commissioners, but Norem thought the presentations would be more important than just being discussed with other county business.
Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem recently led a group of county officials to a National Institute of Corrections Conference in Denver, Colorado where they studied the procedure for identifying jail needs and how a project moves along after a decision is made.
Norem also led officials on tours of other jails. One thing we have not heard is what the price range might be of a new jail. She talked about how she viewed the make-up and price of the Miami County Jail.
“Miami County was probably more suitable for something that we would want to see locally and that was around $12 million or $14 million.”
One thing the group heard in Colorado is that there is a danger with a jail in the condition of the Starke County Jail because of the possibility of lawsuits. The Jack Haut Class Action lawsuit is still moving through the legal system. Even though Kathy Norem has never expressed guilt in the suit, she has mentioned that there might be others that are brought with merit.
“Basically, that lawsuit is alleging his constitutional rights are being violated and we deny that. That is not true. We do not believe that to be true and we intend to vigorously defend that. However, that doesn’t alleviate us from addressing ongoing issues within that jail. One thing that we need to do is take a look at how other people are doing their facilities and what some of their policies and practices are and try to adopt some of the best ones here.”
Chief Deputy Bill Dulin of the Starke County Sheriff’s Department will be in to discuss jail issues with us tomorrow.
Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem has led a delegation from the County to the National Institute of Corrections Conference in Colorado. Joining Norem on the trip is Starke County Councilman David Pearman, Sheriff Oscar Cowen, Chief Deputy Bill Dulin, and Jail Commander Greg Hewitt. Continue reading