CROWN POINT | Lake County E-911 Executive Director Brian Hitchcock will add a deputy director to his staff after the Lake County Council approved creating the new $75,000-a-year position Tuesday in a 4-3 vote.
The assistant position has been a source of controversy over the last two months with strong opposition coming from councilmen Dan Dernulc, R-Highland, and Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point. Both expressed those thoughts again Tuesday.
“It’s not the right time to do this. There are a lot of unanswered questions (about the consolidation of 17 municipal and fire E-911 systems into a single countywide network),” Dernulc said.
“Hitchcock is our guy, and I look to him to be our ambassador,” said Strong prior to the vote, adding he expected the director to work with communities such as St. John that are opposing the proposed system. “We have way too much work to do,” Strong said.
The amount of work yet to do before the 2014 state deadline to have the consolidated E-911 system in place is “exactly why we need a deputy director,” said Councilman Jerome Prince, D-Gary.
Prince said Hitchcock would handle the day-to-day function of the E-911 system while the deputy director would “make sure the operation is going to be fluid.”
Councilwoman Elsie Franklin, D-Gary, said she was “confused why there is so much opposition to this. We have many departments, smaller departments with less responsibility, that have deputy directors. We want to make sure this department runs smoothly, because it affects all our cities and towns.”
In the end, Dernulc, Strong and Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, voted against creating the deputy director position. In addition to Franklin and Prince, Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, and Councilman David Hamm, D-Hammond, voted in favor of the deputy director position.
As with Hitchcock, the deputy director will be a Lake County government employee. The job will be posted in accordance with the rules of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, Bilski said.
In other business, the council approved the issuance and sale of $3 million in general obligation bonds by the Lake County Parks & Recreation Department.
Dernulc and Strong voted against the measure, although both said they support the work done by the county parks department.
Robert Nickovich, CEO of the Lake County Parks Department, said the funds will be used on deferred maintenance on various county parks and to replace a metal tower at Deep River Water Park, which opened 20 years ago. That replacement will allow new slides to be added, which is expected to boost attendance and add revenue.
Strong especially objected to a $600,000 contingency fund that’s part of the $3 million borrowing.
Nickovich said no land purchases will come from that contingency fund. Rather, that 20 percent of the total would be used for change orders during construction, the cost of issuing the bond and for engineering and architectural services needed.
He said the bonds would carry a 2 percent interest rate and would add one-third of 1 percent to the county's debt.