CROWN POINT | Lake County's elected municipal officials will be invited Thursday to get behind their police and firefighters' vision for a consolidated E-911 system.
Lake County Attorney John Dull recently drafted an interlocal agreement he will present to a committee of public safety officials.
The cities and towns who sign it would have to commit millions of tax dollars from their future budgets to a unified communications system to be run by a hybrid form of local government composed of unelected public safety officials and elected county and municipal officials.
Currently, 18 city, town and county police agencies, working independently of one another, answer and respond to hundreds of thousands of emergency service calls annually. The state is mandating them to consolidate into no fewer than two so-called public safety answering centers by Dec. 31, 2014.
Police and fire chiefs have proposed creating two new call centers in East Chicago and Hobart and replace the jumble of incompatible radio networks with one interoperable system that would cost $30 million to build.
Two weeks ago, a majority of the Council Council blanched at the thought of asking voters in the Nov. 6 general election to approve a one-time tax increase that would be spread over a decade. They refused to hold a public hearing to ever consider such a referendum.
Dull now is calling on the police and fire chiefs to bring their elected mayors and council members on board to support the consolidation financially.
Dull has said a commitment by the cities and towns to E-911 consolidation is crucial for the county to meet its deadline or lose a share of the millions of dollars county telephone users pay annually to the state.
A previous version of the interlocal agreement only won the support of a few municipalities.
Police officials in Cedar Lake and Highland have openly criticized the proposed consolidation as a poor fit for their smaller communities where radio dispatchers are needed not just to answer emergency calls, but also for a variety of other essential services that would be lost under a regional-only system.
Dull said his newly drafted interlocal agreement, required by a recent change in state law, is a new and hopeful start down the consolidation road.
Dull said, "We are 0 for 18 on signatures right now, but we are still in the ball game."
Dull's version of the agreement creates an E-911 staff of 138 including radio dispatchers, administrators and support staff. Its $8.6 million annual budget would be administered by a combination of police and fire department representatives, mayors, town board presidents and city, town and county council members.