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Porter County Council warned of unsafe conditions at Highway Department's Valparaiso facility

Porter County IN government website

The Porter County Council is being warned of dangerous conditions at the Highway Department's Valparaiso garage.

Andrew Waugh with Martin Riley Architects/Engineers says every building at the Valpo highway facility has structural issues, and one in particular has a central steel column that's rusted through. "It has been repaired and now the repair is almost rusted through and is definitely dangerous," Waugh explained while presenting the results of a facilities assessment during last week's county council meeting.

"God forbid somebody has an accident and runs through it, that will be a disaster," added Jamal Anabtawi with A&Z Engineering. He said the site is so unsafe, he wouldn't let his own employees work there.

There are also cracking bricks, doors covered up to deal with air leakage issues and a lack of a dedicated ventilation system in certain places.

County Commissioner Jim Biggs wants to move forward with upgrades to the Highway Department's facilities but limit the cost to $17 million. That would leave about $8 million to deal with the most pressing facilities needs at the jail. The goal is to issue new bonds once a current bond is paid off, without having to raise taxes.

"I struggled with throwing all of our warts out here in the public meeting, but you deserve to know in order to make a decision," Biggs told council members.

But Council President Jeremy Rivas questioned whether more funding should be allocated to the jail. "I'd rather protect a life than a $400,000 truck. We can replace the trucks. So if that means trucks are sitting outside so we're making sure the jailers are safe, we need to make sure we're planning this accordingly," Rivas said.

Biggs stressed that employees work in every building, and he felt the need was more urgent at the highway garage. The county council is expected to hear more about the financial options from municipal adviser Baker Tilly next month.