ST. JOHN | Lake County is putting together the hardware for a consolidated public safety communications network. All it needs now is the people to use it.
Municipal police, fire and emergency medical officials met Thursday to review the progress made with the recent signing of an $18 million contract with Motorola Solutions to purchase communications infrastructure for a central dispatch center in Crown Point.
Brian Hitchcock said the county is moving forward on building radio towers or locating them on municipal water towers to ensure police, firefighters and emergency medical service personnel can be heard almost anywhere in the county as well as buying recording systems.
Jack Allendorf, deputy E-911 director, said Motorola, EF Johnson and Harris Corp. will put the latest models of their portable and mobile radios on display early next month for county and municipal officials who will be buying in the thousands, at a cost of millions more dollars, for their employees.
But they haven't decided how best to recruit dispatchers to take emergency calls from the public and transmit them to police officers, firefighters and emergency employees in the field.
Some 97 people now work for the 17 county, city and town dispatch centers and met with county E-911 officials earlier this month.
About 10 have filled out applications to be hired. The county plans to hire approximately 100 full-time and 40 part-time dispatchers.
Some municipal police chiefs said many dispatchers are wary about joining because the county may not recognize their years of job seniority for purposes of vacation and other benefits.
Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, and Tom Dabertin, the county human relations director, said the county must weigh the additional costs of benefits and must be careful not to give the dispatchers privileges that other county employees don't enjoy.
Dabertin said the County Council is researching whether it can make an exception for new employees who are hired as the result of a state law mandating their new employment.