Lake County Council's E-911 redux may be too little too late

2012-07-05T20:45:00Z Lake County Council's E-911 redux may be too little too lateBy Bill Dolan, (219) 662-5328

CROWN POINT | Lake County Council members may renew debate on a $30 million loan for E-911 consolidation if it isn't already too late.

The contentious subject is back on the agenda for Tuesday's council meeting, a month after a majority voted to table a proposed one-time property tax increase to provide startup money to replace 18 community-based dispatch units with two major call centers and all-new communications gear.

Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, said she thought another discussion might be timely since some members complained last month they didn't have enough time or information to act.

Council attorney Ray Szarmach said the only matter before the council Tuesday is whether to schedule a future hearing for the public to ask questions or give opinions on the E-911 consolidation model recommended by a panel of city and town police and fire officials.

"You can have this hearing and then decide 7-0 this is not the way to go," Szarmach said.

He said it is part of a complex procedure required under state law to put the question of borrowing $30 million before the voters in a referendum this fall.

Councilman Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, who has expressed opposition to the current consolidation proposal, said he was being asked last month to give final approval on the matter.

Councilman Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said, "I'm afraid we have stumbled over a procedural matter. Even if we now agree to schedule a public hearing, it may be a case of too little, too late."

County Attorney John Dull said last week there is no time left to put the question on the Nov. 6 ballot. Dull said Thursday he will investigate an alternative plan that may get around legal deadlines that are closing in on any potential referendum.

Larry Blanchard, an administrative assistant to the Board of Commissioners, said Thursday that little can be accomplished on consolidation until the County Council and the 17 city and town councils sign an interlocal agreement providing the legal framework for the new body to run E-911.

City and town officials only received copies of the interlocal agreement a week ago, and some community leaders have expressed doubts about whether a consolidated E-911 fits their communities' needs.

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