CEDAR LAKE | The Cedar Lake Town Council and Police Commission will meet in a special study session Monday night to discuss the E-911 agreement.
Cedar Lake is one of four communities yet to sign the agreement, which will consolidate county emergency dispatch center in a central location. Highland, Schererville and St. John officials have said they need more time to study the proposal.
Brian Hitchcock, Lake County's consolidation director, and attorney Nicole Bennett talked about the proposal at a recent council meeting.
Bennett said time is of the essence because emergency dispatch services are set to start in January.
The much-negotiated agreement is in its final form and will not be re-negotiated, she said.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” she said, regarding the finality of the document. “(But) we need a decision.”
Hitchcock and Bennett got an earful from Town Council members, employees and former employees, who remain skeptical. Chuck Kouder, former Cedar Lake police officer and commissioner, made it clear he doesn’t think the consolidation is a good idea.
The merger will take civilian personnel away from the Police Department, which will not have anyone on-site late at night, he said.
If anyone comes to the department with an emergency, they will be able to call dispatch, Hitchcock said.
The Police Department and Town Hall are in the same building. With no one on-site, “what’s going to stop the bad guys from breaking in” and stealing records and evidence, Kouder asked.
Councilman Greg Wornhoff said he didn't see how the consolidation would help Cedar Lake.
"I don't know this is going to save us a dime," he said.
Hitchcock said he has overseen four consolidations.
“And I see what (others) can’t see” when it comes to the benefit, he said.
Police Chief Jerry Smith said consolidation is inevitable per state mandate and the new system can be a success.
Fire Chief Todd Wilkening said fire chiefs had not had much input into the system’s development. Only one fire chief is on the committee.
Cedar Lake firefighters are volunteers. Implementing the consolidation will be “hell” for a volunteer department, Wilkening said.