CEDAR LAKE | Even if Cedar Lake does not sign on to consolidated E-911 dispatching, its 911 calls still will go through the countywide system in 2015.
If that happened, those emergency calls would be transferred to local dispatch, meaning there could be delays or dropped calls, Fire Chief Todd Wilkening told town leaders at a meeting Monday.
Council member Greg Wornhoff said, “We can’t take that chance."
Council member Robert Carnahan said E-911 consolidation is a mandate from the state.
"This is what you get, it’s not going to change," he said.
The Town Council and Police Commission met in a joint session to go over the E-911 agreement.
Wilkening said one of the only positives he could see in the arrangement was that if Cedar Lake had a fire, four dispatches at a county center would be assigned to the case.
However, those dispatchers will not be in town, and the current local dispatchers “know (firefighters) well, they know our community," he said.
Town officials also crunched numbers and reviewed the costs the town will encounter after signing the agreement. All member communities will be expected to buy new radios.
Police Chief Jerry Smith said Cedar Lake’s cost will be $475,000 for portable and mobile radios.
Cedar Lake is scheduled to get $160,000 a year in public safety funds from the newly levied county income tax. If the town sets aside $100,000 a year to pay for the new radios over a five-year period, that will leave only $60,000 annually for other public safety matters. That money would be divided between the Police and Fire departments.
Some grant money may be available to help pay for radios for the Fire Department, but there are no grants currently available for police radios. Smith said he will continue to look for outside funding sources.
Council members and police commissioners have made it clear that they do not like the idea that there will be no dispatchers on-site, and that at night the town municipal building will be empty
Smith offered a proposal to staff the Police Department window from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week at a cost of $177,186, including weekend and holiday pay. The plan does not contain the funding for overnight staffing.
Brian Hitchcock, the county's E-911 director, previously told town officials a phone would be provided in Town Hall for anyone experiencing an emergency after hours.
The Town Council scheduled Monday's work session after declining to act on the E-911 agreement at its last meeting. A final vote is still needed.