Porter County facilities upgrade ahead of schedule

Official: Porter County facilities upgrade ahead of schedule

Gariup Construction employees work on the plaza at the main entrance to the Porter County administration building in downtown Valparaiso Thursday. The new walkway is slated to open after the first of next year. (Amy Lavalley / Post-Tribune)

By: Amy Lavalley, Post-Tribune

November 17, 2017

While the Porter County Board of Commissioners were mum on a timeline for the county’s capital upgrade plan for county facilities, they did take another step to move the work along.

Commissioners approved the Skillman Corp. for construction manager for the work at a Nov. 14 meeting, which Commissioners President Jeff Good, R-North, said was necessary to implement the plan before plunging forward with architects and other components of the many projects that comprise the $30 million in upgrades.

“Where we’re saving money in this project is if we plan it correctly,” he said, adding county officials also want to make sure the work meets the needs of the county without duplication.

Work is already under way on three bridges in the plan that needed to be repaired or replaced. Additionally, and perhaps most visibly, the plaza at the administration building is getting a complete makeover, including a heated, sloped walkway to replace the crumbling concrete steps that were once there.

That project would have taken place regardless of the fate of the capital upgrade plan because the county had the funds on hand for it, at a cost of $932,500, Good said. Gariup Construction won the bid for the work.

“It’s turning out really good. We’re ahead of schedule,” Matt Stechly, the county’s facilities director, told commissioners during the meeting, adding the work should be complete around the first of the year.

The projects, which are being funded through a bond issue, also include upgrades at the Porter County Expo Center; expansion and renovation at the North County Complex in Portage; and renovation of the county courthouse.

Since plans to purchase the old jail for additional office and storage space fell through, commissioners are focusing on expanding the administration building, which was constructed to accommodate growth.

Work at the Expo Center should begin in early August, the week after the county fair ends, and take five or six months, according to Lori Daley, the facility’s director.

Now that an administrator is on board for the capital projects in the Skillman Corp., Good said, specific plans for all of the projects could move forward.

“We want to do it right. It’s not a race,” he said, adding updates will be provided as the individual projects begin to take shape.

Skillman officials will provide regular updates to commissioners, Good said, and that information also will be shared with the County Council.

“Nobody wants to get these started quicker than we do but the decisions we make we are going to have to live with for the next 50 to 60 years,” said Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North.

In the end, Good said, the extra time the projects take in planning will be worth it.

A lengthy planning process also was involved in the construction of the new animal shelter, which opened earlier this year.

“We did it with the animal shelter and it worked out well,” said Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South.

Click here to read the story as published on post-trib.com.