Lake County Council puts through E-911 call to Lowell

2013-03-12T18:00:00Z 2013-03-12T21:39:12Z Lake County Council puts through E-911 call to LowellBy Bill Dolan, (219) 662-5328

CROWN POINT | Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said Tuesday he will have to live with a flawed merger of Lowell's E-911 services with the county police communications center.

Buncich wanted the union, but not on the terms the Lake County Council approved.

Buncich wanted the county to hire two current radio dispatchers now working for Lowell. The town was prepared to pay the county $100,000 annually in return for taking over the service for the town.

Buncich said he wanted the dispatchers to be county employees so he had authority over them in case of any work-related problems.

The council passed an agreement giving the sheriff authority to supervise the two Lowell dispatchers, but requiring them to remain town employees.

Council members said the county's finances are too perilous to grant two new employees a county salary, benefits and job security.

They said it is unclear whether the two dispatchers will have jobs once the county undergoes a consolidation by next year of all current 17 community-based police and fire radio services.

The state is mandating the countywide consolidation take place by Dec. 31, 2014.

The council appropriated nearly $2 million the sheriff needs to fund about half the cost of providing enhanced medical and psychiatric services to county jail inmates as the U.S. Department of Justice demands.

The council will delay acting on providing the other half of the jail money until a committee of county officials decides how to distribute $15 million the county borrowed late last year to fund jail expenses and repairs to county highways, bridges and drainage ditches.

The council voted to cancel taxpayer-subsidized health insurance benefits for 32 attorneys now working for county government to help repair the overburdened benefits program for the county government's 1,695 full-time employees. The county currently is handling more medical claims than the $30 million allotted in taxes and employee contributions.

Most of the attorneys in question work for the county courts, representing indigent people accused of juvenile or criminal violations, at a fraction of their normal salary because they and their families enjoyed the county's once-generous health coverage. Their health benefits end April 1 for them and two attorneys who provide legal advice to the council.

In return, the public defenders will see their salaries rise between $5,000 and $20,000 annually. The council also approved on first reading other changes to the health benefits program that in some cases will increase employee costs.

The council approved salary adjustments for 14 employees of Coroner Merrilee Frey and four employees of Surveyor George Van Til.

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