Lake E-911 director's relocation stipend draws fire

2013-08-05T18:30:00Z 2013-12-28T21:27:39Z Lake E-911 director's relocation stipend draws fireBill Dolan, (219) 662-5328
August 05, 2013 6:30 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | The compensation package of the new Lake County E-911 director could get a little sweeter this week.

The Lake County Board of Commissioners will be asked Wednesday to approve an amendment to Brian Hitchcock's employment contract that will give him a $6,750 stipend to cover the cost of his relocating to the region from the Quad Cities area around Davenport, Iowa.

That would be in addition to the $112,000 in salary he will receive annually over the life of his three-year contract.

The commissioner's agenda states the stipend can be used to cover moving expenses, travel expenses, temporary storage and temporary housing. It adds, "Employee shall use this sum as employee sees fit and no receipts documenting expenditure shall be required."

One county official has been moved to voice her objection, saying it is poorly timed as Lake residents soon will have to dip into their wallets for a new 1.5 percent income tax.

"I do not support the spending of taxpayers' dollars to house an individual who made a career choice to move to Lake Count," said Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago. "I know private companies make such deals with potential employees. However, the county is spending taxpayer dollars. And yes we want the best, but sometimes we have to consider the cost."

She said Hitchcock can afford to bear the cost of his relocation from his salary, one of the highest in county government. Most county employees are paid an average of less than $32,000 a year and haven't received a salary increase in seven years.

Lake County officials hired Hitchcock on the recommendation of municipal police and fire chiefs who said they wanted someone with Hitchcock's 31 years of experience in public safety communications and oversight of three E-911 consolidations.

They also said Hitchcock cannot be accused of playing favorites as the county wrestles to craft money and power-sharing agreements needed to merge Lake's current 17 community-based emergency responders because he comes from outside the area.

Cid said hundreds of taxpayers face the loss of their homes in a county tax sale next month because of the loss of their jobs and the high cost of food, gas and health care.

"This is not a time to be generous and unaccountable with taxpayers' dollars," Cid said.

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