CROWN POINT | After five years of talking about consolidating Lake County's police and fire communications centers, it's time for local leaders to decide whether to put their money behind it.
Two of the seven Lake County Council members may not be ready Tuesday to vote on borrowing $20 million to finance the construction and electronics hardware needed to to meld the current 17 county and community-based dispatch operations into a single countywide network.
"I have reservations," Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, said Monday.
Councilman Dan Dernulc, R-Highland said, "I'm uncomfortable with it. It's a lot of money. We have four towns that haven't decided whether they want to join, and I will reserve my decision until I've heard from everyone."
Some 14 county and municipal officials have signed an interlocal agreement joining the new E-911 network, but Cedar Lake, Highland, St. John and Schererville have yet to do so.
Other Lake County Council members have expressed support for the bond and moving forward with consolidation.
Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said Monday he understands some objections are being raised about locating a backup central dispatch center in East Chicago and would prefer another, less expensive alternative.
Bilski said it wasn't the council's idea to merge, but they are obliged to follow state law, which mandates that it take place by the end of the year.
The Lake County Council must approve the bond issue in two separate votes.
Even if a majority favors the bond, one dissenting council member could force a delay in the bond's eventual passage, by blocking a second and final vote Tuesday. If so, the council will have to hold a special meeting, now scheduled for March 20.
The Board of Commissioners has scheduled its special meeting for March 26 in case the council declines to approve the bond Tuesday.
Schererville and St. John town council members told county officials last month they oppose the county raising property taxes to pay for E-911.
Mike Repay, president of the Board of Commissioners, said Monday that commissioners intend to completely pay for the bond with the new income tax revenues already enacted, not new property taxes.
However, Schererville Town Councilman Jerry Tippy pointed out that the commissioner bond resolution has left the door open for a property tax increase in case income tax revenues comes up short or are diverted to other uses.