ST. JOHN | A Lake County commissioner had to face down a table full of angry police chiefs Thursday over E-911 consolidation.
Hammond and Munster police officials were among several who complained about the Lake County Board of Commissioners dismissing their advice to hire Motorola Solutions, of Schaumburg. They said Motorola is the most qualified vendor to provide millions of dollars in communications hardware most quickly for the new countywide network, which must be up and running in 16 months to meet a state-mandated deadline or lose millions in revenue.
Instead, commissioners announced last week they will put the hardware contract up for competitive bidding.
Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said, "Commissioners gathered us because we were the experts, but every one of our major decisions they have vetoed, overturned or ignored. Why are we here? Aren't we just spinning our wheels?"
Munster Police Chief Steve Scheckel said the chiefs worked for months on an earlier bidding process, but one of the commissioners' former consultants set up rules that were so vague, potential vendors complained and the process was cancelled.
"We squandered that year because the RFP (Request For Proposal) was too vague. This is a political decision made over public safety concerns. We are supposed to be experts, but our voices are not being heard. Don't waste our time. I could think of 30 places I would rather be now than here," Scheckel said.
Lake County Commissioners Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, defended the decision to go on the open market as a response to public complaints that county officials need to be more frugal with what could be one of the largest supply contracts in county history.
"The other two county commissioners (Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, and Mike Repay, D-Hammond) came to me and said there were news stories and they have had feedback from their constituents," Allen said. "They were uncomfortable with it. We want to be as transparent as possible."
Miller and Scheckel are part of a 21-member advisory board county officials formed to provide E-911 counsel.
Allen said he has been trying to move the process along since he joined the advisory council earlier this year and reviewing the consolidation's history over the last five years.
"With the exception of creating this board, we have nothing in place," Allen said.
Scheckel said media coverage has resulted in misinformation. "It's being called a no-bid contract, but it is not. The state has already done that work of getting bids. We use the state program all the time."
Brian Hitchcock, executive E-911 director, said he expects the bidding process will take between one and two months to set up.