St. John challenging its E-911 share

2013-08-26T23:00:00Z 2013-08-27T12:13:03Z St. John challenging its E-911 shareBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
August 26, 2013 11:00 pm  • 

ST. JOHN | St. John officials fear they are going to be overcharged for their participation in a consolidated E-911 network.

Town Attorney David Austgen said Friday if Lake County's financial plan isn't challenged, St. John's taxpayers will be charged nearly three times the amount of money spent on responding to the average call for help as taxpayers in the nearby town of Highland.

The state is forcing the merger of 17 community-based police and fire dispatch center into a single countywide communications network by next year.

County officials said this week they expect cities and towns to collectively contribute $6.6 million each year to meet the payroll and outside services and supplies needed to respond to 450,000 calls to police and fire services for assistance annually.

County officials estimate St. John's share of the cost will be $308,001 and Highland's to be $293,208.

St. John officials said they received 4,334 emergency calls in 2012. If the county's financial plan is put into place, that would result in St. John taxpayers being charged $71 per 911 call. They said Highland, which fielded 11,839 emergency calls last year, would be charged less than $25 per call.

Austgen said there are similar inequities between the dollar amounts charged Lake County's smaller suburban communities — in which police and fire services get fewer emergency calls — and its largest cities where the volume of traffic is much heavier.

He said he hopes other municipal officials join St. John in getting the differences ironed out before they sign interlocal agreements to replace community-based police and fire dispatch centers with a countywide E-911 network next year.

"If we don't get this cleaned up now, we could be stuck with it," Austgen said.

Larry Blanchard, a consultant for county government on E-911 matters, said Friday the money requested of St. John and other cities and towns reflects the cost each community's taxpayers already are paying. He said the county plan won't increase what St. John already spends per call.

Blanchard said the E-911 dollar amounts aren't yet final, and he will be glad to answer questions St. John officials have.

But he doesn't expect any significant changes because county officials believe the state will approve the formula they are using.

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