CROWN POINT | Lake County's new E-911 director said he won't jeopardize public safety when staffing reductions must be made among the county's police and fire radio dispatchers.
"I've inspected the dispatch centers in East Chicago, Hammond, Gary, Merrillville, Schererville, Griffith, Munster and Dyer, and I was very impressed with what I've seen," Director Brian Hitchcock told police and fire chiefs at Thursday's Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission.
He said he intends to visit the other nine communication points in the coming days.
Hitchcock started work last week as the man county officials hope will drive consolidation of the county's current 17 community-based emergency communications points into a single countywide network next year, as mandated by state law.
The merger will require some downsizing of the nearly 170 dispatchers who handle more than 450,000 calls for assistance to achieve the taxpayer savings the state Legislature contemplated. Some plans call for a staff of 100, while others have talked about buying as few as 25 radio dispatch consoles to field the public calls and relay them to public safety responders in the field.
Hitchcock said he will avoid cutting the staff too deeply to avoid its being overwhelmed with the new system launches in 2014. He said dispatchers will be needed not only to work the phones but also to perform training and backup services.
Thomas Dabertin, a consultant for the E-911 effort, said Thursday they are planning a meeting in early September of all Lake's mayors, city and Town Council members, county officials and some local legislators to discuss the operational cost of the E-911 center.
Cities and towns will be asked to contribute about $8 million they now spend on their local dispatch centers to the combined county entity when it comes into existence in next year.
The county has hired an accounting firm to determine each community's share of the money. The survey results could be made public as early as this month.