CROWN POINT | Municipal police and fire officials are mulling a new proposal to merge all 18 community-based emergency 911 dispatch facilities into one call center either inside the Lake County Government Complex or a municipal building in East Chicago.
Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, argues the public would save millions of dollars in construction costs by locating at least 25 radio dispatch consoles on the third floor of the government complex in Crown Point. He recommends using space now occupied by the county health department and an all-purpose meeting room.
However, a representative of East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland said East Chicago is now offering its city annex building, 4444 Railroad Ave., rent free for 911 use.
Joseph Mrak, of Indianapolis-based RQAW, a design consultant for the E-911 consolidation, said the construction cost for either site is about $3.9 million. Equipping the space in either Crown Point or East Chicago with radio communications hardware and software is estimated to cost another $3 million to $6 million.
Scheub says the $3.9 million construction estimates are too high and that he believes it could be done for $2.4 million. He said the cost of relocating the health department to the Westwind building near the government complex here would only cost $300,000.
The police chiefs sitting on an E-911 advisory commission met Thursday inside the government complex space being offered. They are scheduled to tour the East Chicago facility Nov. 1.
The police chiefs earlier had recommended two separate emergency communications centers in East Chicago and Hobart, a proposal that could have cost as much as $30 million.
However, there was little discussion Thursday of a Hobart site.
Elected county officials, who make the final call on E-911 consolidation, said this summer that a $30 million price tag was too high. They also contended East Chicago and Hobart were not centrally located. The county government complex site proposal arose from those objections.
Mrak said an existing police dispatch operation, such as one run by Hammond police, could be designated as a back-up facility if the Crown Point operation were taken down by a disaster.
Mrak told the police chiefs they must choose a site within two months to meet the state mandate of having a central E-911 system operational by Dec. 31, 2014.
Municipal officials have yet to sign an interlocal agreement committing part of their community budgets for E-911 operations to a central county system. They are now scheduled to meet Nov. 28 for an informational meeting at the county government complex auditorium.
County taxpayers collectively shell out $8 million each year to pay the salaries of dispatchers in town, city and county police departments, which handle hundreds of thousands of calls for assistance annually.