CROWN POINT | Lake County officials are set to vote Tuesday on taking over the town of Lowell's emergency fire and police communications network.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich is asking the County Council to approve an interlocal agreement to make the merger of the county and Lowell E-911 systems official March 1.
Lowell would pay the county $100,000 annually to hire two full-time county police radio dispatchers as well as an unspecified number of part-time dispatchers to answer calls for help from the town's 7,500 residents.
Lowell Police Chief John Shelhart said last month that although police dispatchers sitting in Crown Point will take over the communication duties, the changeover would be seamless to the town's public. "When they call E-911, a Lowell police car will respond," he said.
The county took over E-911 calls for New Chicago last year.
These are steps in a state-driven mandate to merge all of Lake's municipal police and fire dispatch service into a countywide E-911 system. The deadline was by the first of the year.
However, many council members balked at a request by the sheriff to vote Tuesday to sign another interlocal agreement to create the new government agency that would run a unified E-911 service because council members were unsure of where they will find the revenue to cover its estimated $8 million in annual operational costs.
"We don't have it," Councilman Jerome Prince, D-Gary, said.
John Bushemi, an attorney for the sheriff, told council members Thursday they aren't being asked to pay for the merger now, but they must sign the agreement to assist planning.
Dante Rondelli, the council's fiscal adviser, cautioned the council it shouldn't sign until members know where the money is coming from.
Bushemi said the state now provides $2.6 million a year, from telephone user fees, toward the goal of merging E-911. Cities and towns will contribute the money they now spend on the individual E-911 systems to the unified system, although the total of those municipal dollars isn't yet known.
Bushemi said it is crucial for the council to sign the countywide E-911 interlocal agreement Tuesday and for the Lake County Board of Commissioners to approve it at their Feb. 20 meeting so a final version of the agreement can be distributed to the city and town councils around the county for their approval this spring.