McDermott opposes E-911 consolidation interlocal agreement

2012-07-13T10:07:00Z 2012-07-14T01:17:41Z McDermott opposes E-911 consolidation interlocal agreementBy Chelsea Schneider Kirk, (219) 933-3241

HAMMOND | Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. on Friday called on county officials to withdraw the proposed interlocal agreement for the consolidation of E-911 services.

McDermott said while he supports the concept of consolidation, the interlocal agreement circulating in the county "is not an example of efficiency or coordination."

Earlier this week, Crown Point officials rejected the interlocal agreement and authorized city attorneys to look into challenging the constitutionality of the state mandate.

State law requires Lake County's 18 emergency dispatch centers to consolidate by 2014. Plans are to consolidate the E-911 centers into two regional call centers.

"The agreement requires local government to pay more than it already pays to fund consolidation, which is supposed to be a function of county government," according to McDermott in a statement. "Cities and towns in this county are facing dire financial challenges, in part due to the county's refusal to adopt a local option income tax — which resulted in a frozen tax levy."

McDermott argued that members of an E-911 commission made up of public safety officials across the county and headed by Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller were ignored in the process of creating the interlocal agreement.

McDermott said he wants a new proposal developed that improves communication and services for Lake County residents in a cost-efficient manner.

Miller said the interlocal agreement is a draft and was not meant to be voted on by mayors and councils in its present state.

“Many of the commission members I've talked to were unhappy about the amount of buy-in each town or city would be required to give to the operation of the dispatch center,” Miller said.

Under the interlocal agreement, municipalities are asked to transfer the funding they currently spend on hosting emergency dispatch centers to a new consolidated system.

Lake County Councilmen Mike Repay, D-Hammond, and Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, said they understand communities' concerns, noting that some dispatchers fulfill other responsibilities.

“The argument of these communities is the people they have dispatching, they do more than dispatch,” Niemeyer said. “They are people who do administrative stuff during the day.”

Miller said the commission likely will have to reduce some of the costs for the project, but emphasized there's no way to reduce it entirely.

“I really don't think our state government is going to grant us an exception or change the requirement,” Miller said. “I think we're going to be forced into it whether we like it or not.”

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