COLUMBIA CITY — The Whitley County Jail needs to replace its 30-year-old chiller for its chilled water system – but where to place the new one is up for debate.

County Maintenance Supervisor Mark Sturtevant recommends the county pay $13,770 to Martin Riley Architects & Engineers to evaluate the best location for the new chiller, which is expected to cost $150,000-$200,000.

To date, three contractors have looked at the current chiller and have made multiple suggestions on where to place the new chiller, Sturtevant said.

“They’ll all work,” he said of the suggestions. “But what’s the best way to do it?”

One goal would be to find a location outside of the main building to avoid an evacuation if the refrigerant were to leak – as it has in the past, he said during the Whitley County Commissioners’ meeting May 1.

Sheriff Marc Gatton voiced his support for the proposed study and Sturtevant’s suggestions.

County Commissioners and County Council unanimously approved the purchase.

“If we are looking at a $200,000 cost, we need to make sure we do it properly,” Commissioner Chairman George Schrumpf said of the study.

A new chiller is needed because the current chiller is operating beyond its 20-25-year life expectancy, Sturtevant said. As a result, the maintenance costs are adding up. The county paid maintenance costs of $19,000 in 2015, $39,000 in 2016 and $6,300 thus far in 2017.

In other commissioner meeting news:

• Debra Darr, with the Whitley County Council on Aging, presented the organization’s expense report for the commissioners to approve, which they did. The commissioners’ approval is required so the organization can receive reimbursement dollars from the state, County Auditor Jana Schinbecker said after the meeting.

• Community Corrections Director Paula Worden and Liane Minier, also with Community Corrections, presented an overview of the residential work release program from 2012-2016. The report also provides information on the home detention program for the last five years and an overview of fees and funding that has been received during the same period. The information was presented to commissioners to be considered. Worden and Minier plan to attend the May meetings to answer any questions. Look for a more in-depth story on the findings in next week’s IN|Whitley County.

• The county’s health board approved revisions to the tattoo ordinance, which was last updated in 2002, said Scott Wagner, environmental health specialist for the county. The current ordinance only allows the health department to fine a code violator if the person is licensed to perform tattooing and piercing. This means, those who are unlicensed cannot be fined for violating the ordinance. Other proposed changes include referring to tattoo businesses as “establishments” rather than “parlors.”

“I don’t think we’re going to put anyone out of business [with the changes],” said Wagner.

The commissioners said they will request County Attorney Dan Sigler to review the changes before taking action.

• Nathan Bilger, executive director of the planning and building department, presented the proposed zoning amendments approved by the Planning Commission last week, 9-0.

Currently, the way the code is written, properties that have 80,000 square feet and less, must have one acre of land per animal unit. While it is implied that properties over the 80,000 square feet do not have an acreage standard, the commission decided to clarify the language so the code is interpreted as such, Bilger said. The code is also being amended to clarify what is considered a confined feeding operation.

The commissioners approved the changes to the ordinance.

• County Engineer Brandon Forrester expects the highway department to have funding to chip and seal 90 miles worth of county roads this year. This amounts to about $900,000, he said in an email.

“We can’t do as much as we liked to just because of funding…Next year, we will get more money,” Forrester said, referring to the recent approval of additional road funding by state lawmakers.

To determine which roads were in the greatest need of chip and seal this year, Forrester said he drove down every county road.

“I can say now I’ve been on every segment of every road,” he said.

• County Commissioners plan to present a proposal for the county to provide health savings accounts for county employees at a future County Council meeting, Schrumpf said. A study shows the county could save more than $80,000.

“I think it will be a great program for us,” he said.

• During the public portion of the meeting, residents raised concerns about how the commissioners are handling EMS service in the county.

In 2016, Whitley County Commissioners signed an EMS contract with Parkview to provide service to the entire county, with ambulances stationed in Columbia City at Parkview Whitley Hospital, and at Churubusco’s and South Whitley’s fire stations.

Then, Lutheran announced it would bring an ambulance service to South Whitley at no cost to taxpayers.

Many questions have been raised regarding Lutheran’s presence in Whitley County — such as where the ambulance would be housed, who will dispatch the ambulance and how it would be decided which ambulance would respond to each incident.

Commissioners are expected to meet with affected and involved parties to discuss Lutheran’s plans in the near future, Commissioner Don Amber said.