HIGHLAND | Efforts to consolidate Lake County's E-911 emergency calling system got a boost Monday when the Highland Town Council joined three other towns in promising its approval — if certain conditions are met.
The board unanimously approved a joint resolution that gives Council President Dan Vassar, D-3rd, authority to sign the county's interlocal agreement when those conditions are satisfied.
The other towns include Cedar Lake, Schererville and St. John.
Cedar Lake, Highland and Schererville have now approved the resolution, and St. John is expected to join them later this week, said attorney David Austgen, who drafted the resolution based on the concerns of the four towns.
He was accompanied at the meeting by St. John Town Council President Mike Forbes, R-at large.
"It's an accountability resolution," Austgen said, noting that the county cannot just make promises without backing them up.
The resolution requires limits on expenditure and revenue sources and seeks commitments on how the staffing will be done, Austgen said.
"They've authorized their presidents to sign if the county officials check off on the conditions" they've already agreed to, Austgen said.
Highland Councilman Bernie Zemen, D-1st, praised Austgen's efforts and said many of the town's concerns have been covered.
Zemen said the conditions were strongly voiced by Highland officials, including Police Chief Pete Hojnicki, police Cmdr. George Georgeff and Fire Chief Bill Timmer.
Timmer said it was important that the new system deliver the same level of service with strong dependability.
Hojnicki said the town also wants the system to remain cost effective.
Councilman Dennis Adams, D-4th, said it is not the best possible agreement, but that the Highland officials worked hard to get the best deal for the town.
The council cares about Lake County, but believes Highland must come first, Adams said.
"We serve the people of Highland," he said.
Adams also said it is doubtful the new system, if approved, will launch by its target date of Jan. 1.
Zemen said it will be a major change when it does come into service.
"When it first kicks off, it's going to be hard to handle, hard to get used to," he said.