County to E-911 skeptics: Take this call

2013-11-07T19:00:00Z 2013-11-07T22:15:36Z County to E-911 skeptics: Take this callBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
November 07, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

ST. JOHN | Lake County officials say they have dumped their entire sugar canister into the latest E-911 proposed interlocal agreement to overcome city and town officials skeptical about the public cost of merging their police and fire communications into one network.

But St. John Town Manager Steven Kil didn't sound any sweeter after Tuesday's public safety commission meeting, because he said he isn't ready to swallow all the promises the county made about cutting the cost of consolidation to his and other communities.

"I want all the representations that the county will fund any (financial) shortfall in writing," Kil said, after agreeing he will meet with commission officials to iron out their differences. "I'm always willing to sit down and talk," Kil said.

The state is forcing Lake's 17 police and fire dispatch centers to merge by the end of next year or lose $2.6 million in state funds paying for the current 911 telephone infrastructure.

Weeks ago, county officials demanded cities and towns contribute $56 million over the next decade to the cover construction and equipment costs and another $1.5 million annually in operational and personnel expenses. The money would come from their share of the new local income tax.

The county also would dictate which electronics vendor would provide the communications radios hundreds of police officers and firefighters would wear into the field to stay connected to the E-911 network.

Kil said those costs were too high and he vowed to lead a revolt of south county suburban communities to form their own separate E-911 network. He said Cedar Lake, Lowell and Schererville officials agreed with his plan.

County officials responded last month with concessions, now written into the new interlocal agreement: The county would pay for all capital E-911 expenses, the cities and towns can keep their income tax millions and can name their own radio vendors.

"It's a huge shift, a huge progression from where we started," Tom Dabertin, an E-911 consultant said.

County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen said the new agreement should answer all the recent objections. "We are giving them everything with the kitchen sink."

A skeptical Kil retorted, "We'll give it a hard look."

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