La PORTE ­­ ­– County leaders are looking in-house for help to pull off the move of the La Porte EMS base later this year.

During a special vote before Monday's County Council meeting, the La Porte County Board of Commissioners rejected the sole bid for work related to the planned relocation of the La Porte ambulance hanger.

Instead of relying on an outside contractor, the leaders placed Larry Levendowski, county director of facilities, in charge of the project, which will move the base from its current location at 305 State St. to a new site one block to the east.

La Porte’s Larson-Danielson Construction submitted the rejected bid. The commissioners turned down the $1.4 million proposal, as the estimate far exceeded the $900,000 the county had projected for the relocation.

Commissioners have given Levendowski authorization to use other county personnel for any part of the project, projected to begin this fall. He also has the authority to hire subcontractors or rebid the project, if necessary.

The commissioners also permitted Levendowski to coordinate the relocation of the base – currently on property the new La Porte Hospital building will occupy – with contractors building the new medical facility. The hospital has given the county until Dec. 1 to move, offering the support of its contractors to help.

The change in plans is intended to keep the relocation in line with the cost projections local engineering firm RQAW gave the county in the spring.

County leaders plan to use the more than $1 million the hospital paid the county for the land the EMS base sits on to fund the move.

Officials initially considered demolishing and rebuilding the La Porte EMS headquarters on another property, which would have cost around $1.4 million.

In March, however, the commissioners voted instead to move the base. With the plan projected to cost around $900,000, it would allow the county to spend the remaining $100,000-plus from the land sale on improvements to the Michigan City EMS base.

Following Monday’s vote, Commissioner Sheila Matias said the board has a responsibility to provide residents with the safety features they require from an EMS base in a timely manner.

“The move of the building [is] not only economical but is in the interest of just those goals – being timely and on budget,” Matias said. “If that’s not shaking out, then we need to be smart and reconsider this project from another direction.”

Board President Vidya Kora shared a similar sentiment, though he praised Larson-Danielson for the work the firm has done for the county in the past.

“We owe to the county taxpayers to make sure we go back to the drawing board to see what we can do to get [the move] done, on time and under budget, hopefully,” Kora said.

The vote comes less than a week after the commissioners accepted a lease agreement with La Porte Hospital for a temporary home for the La Porte ambulance fleet. While the move is in progress, EMS will station its crew at the former House of Fara building, located behind Kabelin Ace Hardware on La Porte’s west side.

During its regularly scheduled meeting later in the evening, the County Council approved EMS’ request to spend $12,800 to modify the temporary La Porte base.

According to EMS Administrator Andrew McGuire, the service has budgeted $4,500 to connect the base with fiberoptic internet service; around $3,000 to migrate its radio and other electronic systems; $3,200 for building materials; and $2,000 in contingency costs.

The actual relocation of the State Street base will last six to eight weeks, 10 at most, McGuire told commissioners last week. Work on the foundation at the new site is expected to begin in September, with the actual move scheduled to start several weeks later.

Also on Monday, the council:

• Authorized spending $750,000 from the cumulative bridge fund for repairs/upgrades to Michigan City’s Franklin Street Bridge. The company will fix the damage caused to the mechanical lift bridge earlier this month after an Ohio man’s SUV became lodged at the base of the bridge as it was going up.

Last week, the commissioners authorized a contract with Marquiss Electric, not to exceed $200,000, for the repair work. The additional dollars the council approved Monday will also allow the county to make interior and exterior improvements to the bridge towers and upgrade its camera system. The county plans to close the bridge for the work Monday, Sept. 9, and hopes to finish by the following day.

• Agreed to spend $500,000 from the general fund to settle the case of Thomas Smith and Theresa Smith v. La Porte County Highway et al. The case concerns a county resident who sustained extensive injuries after a county snowplow ran a stop sign and hit his vehicle. The county commissioners authorized a settlement agreement of $750,000 for the case earlier this month, with the county’s insurance company picking up $250,000 of the cost.

• Agreed to La Porte County Planner Mitch Bishop's request for $19,375 from the local roads and streets sign account. The money will provide a 10 percent match for a grant that will fund the replacement of 5,000 traffic signs in eight townships.

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