Lake emergency director dialing for E-911 dollars

2013-08-04T20:00:00Z 2013-08-05T11:38:04Z Lake emergency director dialing for E-911 dollarsBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
August 04, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Lake County's emergency management director wants to know if she's in or out of the county's new, consolidated E-911 network.

Jodi Richmond, the county's representative of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, made that plea Thursday to the county's police and fire chiefs during a planning session for creating a consolidated, countywide E-911 call center.

She didn't get any commitment from members of the county public safety communications advisory board, which is planning to pump millions of dollars into merging 17 municipal public safety dispatch centers into one state-of-the art emergency communications facility here next year.

Richmond said she will next speak with the Lake County Board of Commissioners to ensure her small agency becomes as relevant as the responsibility it must bear.

She is one of 92 emergency management directors. She said she keeps a database of state-mandated public safety directives, is prepared to coordinate the response to natural and man-made disasters, and her agency is a conduit of homeland security federal grants to public safety responders.

However, Richmond said what once was millions of dollars in federal aid shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks has since trickled down to about $300,000 this year.

She has a staff of two, Elijah Cole, her assistant director, and a part-time secretary, and a budget of $192,846, which is paid by local property taxes. "Compared to other emergency centers, ours is like a hole in the wall, and that is very rough during disasters," she said.

She said she is relying on earlier promises her agency would benefit from local tax dollars to be poured into equipment purchases.

"They said they would include us in all 911 funding, and we would get an all new state-of-the-art emergency operations center, which we desperately need. That is my biggest issue," Richmond said.

County officials said that E-911 space, 13,000 square feet on the top floor of the administration building of the Lake County Government Center, has been cleared of its previous occupants and should be ready for construction next month.

Richmond said there is a rumor her agency might get to move into a nearby space now occupied by the economic development commission. "I will believe it when I'm over there," Richmond said.

Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, said there was a suggestion that Richmond's agency move into E-911 space at some later date, but not until after the E-911 consolidation is completed.

Allen said they would have to find other money to finance the move, since there are no plans to share E-911 money with Richmond's operation.

"Having them over there would make sense. This is long-term planning though," Allen said.

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