Porter County of­fi­cials weigh­ing op­tions on fill­ing public safety role

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Amy Laval­ley Post-Tri­bune

What­ever the Porter County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers de­cides to do with the po­si­tion of public safety ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor now that Michael Brick­ner is re­sign­ing, the County Coun­cil wants to be kept in the loop.

Coun­cil­man Jeff Lar­son, R-at large, asked Com­mis­sioner Jim Biggs, R-North, what com­mis­sion­ers plan on do­ing with Brick­ner’s “large” salary at the Dec. 19 meet­ing.

The salary is $97,344 for the com­ing year, ac­cord­ing to Au­di­tor Vicki Ur­banik.

Biggs said com­mis­sion­ers re­ceived Brick­ner’s res­ig­na­tion, ef­fec­tive Jan. 31, on Dec. 17 after he held the post for about 16 months. Coun­cil­man Dan Whit­ten, D-at large, said com­mis­sion­ers knew about it ear­lier.

With Com­mis­sion­ers Pres­i­dent Jeff Good, RCen­ter, out of the of­fice and the hol­i­days, com­mis­sion­ers will have to wait to find time to hold an ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion, Biggs said.

“Be­fore you make a deci- sion to re­place it, come to us to fund it,” Whit­ten said, adding the coun­cil might not do it, “be­cause maybe we don’t like the struc­ture and the other guys can do it.”

Whit­ten was re­fer­ring to Lance Bella, di­rec­tor of the Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, and Rob Lan­schweerdt, di­rec­tor of Porter County Cen­tral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, or 911.

Whit­ten said com­mis­sion­ers first said they were hir­ing a 911 di­rec­tor and then changed di­rec­tion when they hired Brick­ner, Val­paraiso’s for­mer po­lice chief, who took the job on Aug. 21, 2017.

Brick­ner’s salary, said Lar­son and Coun­cil­man Jeremy Ri­vas, D-2nd, could be dis­trib­uted to in­crease pay for dis­patch­ers and oth­ers in the depart­ment.

Biggs said even if com­mis­sion­ers don’t fill the di­rec­tor’s post, the depart­ment will still need an as­sis­tant di­rec­tor.

Whit­ten said what­ever struc­ture com­mis­sion­ers de­cide to move for­ward with they should be in con­tact with the coun­cil.

In a let­ter dated Dec. 17 and pro­vided to the PostTri­bune by Scott McClure, the county at­tor­ney, Brick­ner said the past 16 months “have come with many chal­lenges that tran­si­tioned into op­por­tu­ni­ties. I leave with sat­is­fac­tion in know­ing that our Porter County EMA now op­er­ates un­der strong, com­pe­tent lead­er­ship and is a model within our State. Our Porter County 911 Cen­ter now has a solid foun­da­tion to move for­ward and agency cred­i­bil­ity has been re­stored.”

Com­mis­sion­ers haven’t de­cided how and when they will fill the post, McClure said. Biggs said at the time they will want to hear from Bella and Lan­schweerdt.

“It may not be nec­es­sary at this point,” Biggs said then.

Brick­ner had been tasked with rec­ti­fy­ing prob­lems the county had been hav­ing for a num­ber of years with cen­tral com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Biggs has said.

Amy Laval­ley is a free­lance re­porter for the Post-Tri­bune.

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