INDIANAPOLIS | The plan by Schererville, St. John and Cedar Lake to opt out of Lake County's E-911 network by establishing their own emergency dispatch center is not what state lawmakers had in mind when they authorized two Public Safety Answering Points, or PSAP, per county.
"That was never our intent," said state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, who cosponsored the 2008 law requiring consolidation of county 911 centers by 2015. "The whole intent was that there would be mutual support, because it's not unreasonable to think that we could lose a PSAP."
Soliday and state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, a Senate leader on 911 law, both said they envisioned counties consolidating to a single PSAP, but having a backup site ready to open and operate in case of natural disaster or emergency where 911 is needed but the primary PSAP is not in service.
"Due to the compromise and negotiations that occur in the legislative process it was not specifically defined as a backup, but that was the overall intent," Hershman said.
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, who also cosponsored the 911 law, said lawmakers absolutely did not expect the creation of "spinoff" PSAPs like Schererville, St. John and Cedar Lake hope to establish.
"We wanted everybody to consolidate to one, but we could understand that a backup could be a reasonable thing to do," Tallian said.
The Schererville Town Council last week unanimously agreed to move forward with plans to create a PSAP independent of the E-911 network that 14 of the 17 Lake County communities have agreed to join.
Town officials believe Cedar Lake and St. John may sign on to Schererville's PSAP, which they claim could serve as a backup to Lake County's E-911 service.
County leaders doubt the much smaller Schererville PSAP could adequately back up the countywide operation. They're also skeptical the three towns will spend the money required to upgrade their existing 911 systems to match the county's new 911 network.
Hershman believes there still is room for compromise, such as Schererville, Cedar Lake and St. John joining the county system but insisting on strong performance measures to ensure their residents are effectively served.
"All of the units need to be evaluating what is the best solution for public safety and the taxpayer," Hershman said. "If that doesn't happen the state may be forced to act, but that's not our preference."
Soliday warned that pleas for more time or special treatment for Lake County communities likely won't fly at the Statehouse.
"I don't want to sound unempathetic but what is, is. I don't know 51 folks in the House or 26 in the Senate that say, 'Oh shucks, do what you want Lake County,' " Soliday said. "If Marion County can do it, Allen County can do it, St. Joe County, then Lake County can do it. It's a matter of moving the ball forward."