NEW CHICAGO | New Chicago eliminated its 911 dispatch last month, becoming the first community to consolidate with Lake County, Town Council President Laurie Robbins said.
"We are under the county dispatch. Monetarily it's a blessing to us because we won't start paying until next year," Robbins said.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich confirmed New Chicago is the first to join the county's emergency 911 consolidation. Lowell is expected to be the next community onboard.
"It was a very smooth consolidation with New Chicago and we're looking to take over Lowell's next," Buncich said.
Lake County officials recently discussed preparations to relaunch their emergency 911 consolidation drive with a less expensive vision. Elected officials earlier this summer rejected a plan that would have cost $30 million for two consolidated call centers in East Chicago and Hobart.
State law requires a merger of all 18 communities in the county into a unified system by the end of 2014.
Although New Chicago has eliminated its 911 police dispatchers, it doesn't have any plans to disband its police department, Robbins said.
"There are rumors floating around that our police department has been disbanded, and that's not the case," Robbins said. "I'll fight tooth and nail before that happens. I'm not going to let our community go unprotected."
The town has four paid police officers, including the police chief, and 10 volunteer reserve officers.
Problems with radio equipment used by dispatchers sparked the town officials' decision to join the county starting at the end of last month, Robbins said.
Money to replace the radio equipment and to pay for the dispatchers' salaries was a deciding factor.
"Our budget to pay for dispatchers is $90,000," Robbins said.
Because of its tight budget, town officials also requested and received assistance from the county earlier this summer in the form of a used squad car.
The Lake County Board of Commissioners in June approved donating Lake County Sheriff's Department car -- a 2003 Ford -- to the town, Robbins said.
"It's a great asset to our town because we can't afford it. We were thankful," Robbins said.