CROWN POINT | The Lake County E-911 chairman said he is building a back-up emergency call center in East Chicago as a bulwark against a rival public safety dispatch service proposed by Cedar Lake and Schererville town officials.
The Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission voted Thursday to begin design work on a floor in the East Chicago city annex building, 4444 Railroad Ave., East Chicago, as a second, or "dark," call center for 15 county and municipal police, fire and emergency medical service departments to be used in case the primary call center in Crown Point goes down.
Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, the chairman of the E-911 group, said Thursday, moving forward with the East Chicago site should foreclose any legal avenue for a second suburban Public Safety Answering Point.
"This acts as a reminder we already have a second site," he said.
Cedar Lake and Schererville town officials said this has no effect on their plans. A third town, St. John, has not yet voted one way or the other.
Town Councilman Jerry Tippy said, "We are less than two weeks away from completing our due diligence and putting together a plan for the second PSAP. The second PSAP would be built-out to facilitate the additional required dispatch positions, saving the county PSAP the expected $1 million-plus cost to build out a "dark site."
Preparing the East Chicago site, the former Blaw-Knox corporate headquarters, for furniture and equipment is expected to cost about $1.1 million.
The state has mandated Lake County merge its 17 municipal and county dispatch centers by year's end. Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Gary, Griffith, Hammond, Highland, Hobart, Lake Station, Lowell, Munster, New Chicago, Merrillville and Whiting have joined the county network.
Cedar Lake, Schererville and St. John refuse. Cedar Lake and Schererville have voted to research forming their own PSAP.
Allen said state law allows the county two PSAPs, but State Rep. Ed Soliday, an author of the E-911 consolidation statute, assured him the legislative intent was to give a single county administration the option of running one primary and one dark site.
Cedar Lake Town Council President Randell C. "Randy" Niemeyer said, "The city of Lawrence has their own PSAP that serves as a back-up site for Marion County. The town of Speedway (Marion County) has its own PSAP. In Allen County, the city of New Haven has their own that serves as a back-up for Allen County's. There are several instances around the state where two live PSAPs are running quite well."
Allen, however, is adamant, and said, "I don't see how they are going to form their own group, because there can only be one interlocal agreement. They cannot form their own group without the consent of the other units. That is statutory law."
Tippy said, "I think the county should talk to us before they move forward with a dark site. If we sit at the table and look at this from the view of the taxpayers, and work on a plan that benefits everyone in the county, I feel confident that we can work out a compromise."