Lowell disconnects from E-911 merger talks

2013-03-20T19:00:00Z 2013-03-20T22:22:12Z Lowell disconnects from E-911 merger talksBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | Lowell town officials are pulling out of a prior agreement to merge their police and fire E-911 communications with the Lake County sheriff's dispatch center.

Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, announced Wednesday the merger, which had been in the works for several months, collapsed when the new interim police chief Cpl. Erik Matson decided to keep control of police communications for now.

Scheub also said the town was unable to find two dispatchers willing to work in Crown Point.

Matson said Wednesday it was the decision of the Lowell Town Council. "We will go on with our dispatchers and keep giving the town the service they deserve."

Commissioners Mike Repay, D-Hammond, and Matson both said Lowell's reversal shouldn't be seen as a setback to the county's effort to follow a state mandate to consolidate the 17 county and community-based police and fire radio dispatch centers into a single system by the end of next year.

Repay said the Lowell merger was an independent arrangement undertaken by Sheriff John Buncich and former Lowell Police Chief John Shelhart unrelated to countywide E-911 consolidation. The Lowell Town Council voted March 14 to name Matson to replace Shelhart, who is retiring.

Repay said the state has made it clear cities and towns have little choice but to consolidate since they would lose significant property tax and telephone user fee revenue for refusing to join a countywide system.

Repay said the eventual consolidated E-911 system would be run by an E-911 authority that is independent of elected county officials.

Commissioners also approved spending approximately $370,000 on vendor and consultant contracts that include work on replacing two county highway bridges, extending the contracts of two lawyers providing legal counsel, software and printer maintenance.

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