CROWN POINT | Lake County officials are debating whether four suburban communities that haven't joined the consolidated E-911 network need more time — or more pressure.
Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, said Wednesday he supports setting a March 31 deadline for Cedar Lake, Highland, St. John and Schererville to sign an interlocal agreement formalizing the merger of 17 police and fire dispatch centers into a countywide network.
"After that deadline, the matter would be turned over to the Indiana attorney general," Allen said. State law mandates the merger, and the attorney general could compel their compliance.
Lake officials say they stands to lose millions in state funds if they miss a Dec. 31 deadline. "We have got to set bench marks to move forward to meet or at least come close to the deadline the Indiana General Assembly set," Allen said.
Commissioner Mike Repay, D-Hammond, worries that leaning on community leaders who can't or won't make up their minds could be counterproductive.
"I would not be in favor of setting a deadline on our end. Most of the things we need to address immediately are already in the works. We have enough participants to make a go of it. We are purchasing infrastructure that is going to be there, whether there are 14 or more," Repay said.
Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Gary, Griffith, Hammond, Hobart, Lake Station, Lowell, Merrillville, Munster, New Chicago, Whiting and county officials on behalf of Schneider, Winfield and rural residents, have signed the interlocal agreement in recent weeks. But officials from the remaining four still have their doubts.
"Threatening us isn't the way to go," Schererville Town Councilman Jerry Tippy said Wednesday.
Tippy said he believes the cost of buying between $8 million and $14 million in new communications towers, consoles, computers and portable radios will fall unfairly on his town's residents since Lake's larger communities have already maxed out their tax rates.
Tippy said other Schererville councilmen worry there will be double taxation and unrestricted spending during the transition period the county takes over municipal police and fire dispatching later this year.
Tippy said he favors creating a second network that better fits smaller suburban communities like his.
Highland Town Councilman Konnie Kuiper said Wednesday he and other town leaders are awaiting more information before they can vote on the issue.
Allen said, "We've given them plenty of time to evaluate the interlocal agreement. We've answered multiple questions and made modifications to satisfy those communities that had major objections. The county has assumed a lot more financial obligation to entice those communities to sign on.
"Their complaints now are very minor. Those communities represent only a small percentage of the county's overall population. It's time to consider that the needs of the many are greater than the needs of the few," Allen said.