E.C. mayor endorses E-911 merger

2013-11-26T19:04:00Z 2013-11-26T21:43:35Z E.C. mayor endorses E-911 mergerBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
November 26, 2013 7:04 pm  • 

EAST CHICAGO | Mayor Anthony Copeland became the second mayor in two days to endorse the Lake County E-911 consolidation.

The mayor said Tuesday he intends to sign the Interlocal Agreement for Consolidation of Public Safety Answering Points once the City Council approves it.

"As a former firefighter and officer with more than 27 years' experience, I understand firsthand the life-saving value of quality communications," he said.

He said the consolidation will be good for his city, despite county officials rejecting East Chicago as a possible location for the new E-911 call center.

The center would consolidate all police, fire and other emergency dispatch calls throughout the county into one location and service.

Earlier, the county had designated East Chicago as a backup, or "dark," site, but that also has been dropped from the latest version of the interlocal agreement, Copeland said.

Copeland's announcement comes one day after Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. endorsed the local agreement needed to merge 17 separate police and fire radio systems into a single countywide network by the end of next year, as mandated by state law.

Tom Dabertin, a consultant for both county government and the city, said he hoped the announcements would build momentum to get the rest of the county's community leaders on board.

Dabertin said he has scheduled meetings in the coming days with Crown Point, Hobart, Lake Station and Gary. Lake County commissioners have scheduled a meeting Dec. 10 on the interlocal agreement.

Supporters of the new interlocal agreement hope to fend off an effort by St. John town officials to form a second consolidated dispatch for suburban police and fire departments. St. John officials have said the countywide model would be too expensive and force smaller communities to surrender too much local control over public safety.

Griffith Town Councilman Rick Ryfa said his community has been undecided about the merger, "but for me the game changer was last Thursday when county officials met with us and agreed to bear the cost of the capital outlay as well as as guarantee the operational costs will be fixed."

The county abandoned previous demands that cities and towns contribute tens of millions of dollars to build and equip a merged police and fire dispatch service and assist in its annual operational costs. Ryfa said he wants assurances the interlocal agreement can't be rewritten down the road.

Ryfa said he expects a committee of town officials will make a favorable recommendation on the interlocal agreement as early as Tuesday.

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