CROWN POINT | Brian Hitchcock said he sees his new job as Lake County's executive E-911 director as the principal cheerleader for consolidation.
He started work Monday touring the Lake County Government Complex call center for dispatchers in a countywide communications network that will be equipped and staffed by next year.
He said he will meet with county and municipal officials in coming days to impress upon them the teamwork needed to get 17 community-based systems merged. State law mandates it be up and running by Dec. 31, 2014.
"The bullet has left the chamber. All we can do is steer it in the right direction," Hitchcock said.
The county hired him last month under a three-year contract that pays $112,000 annually. Hitchcock was most recently director of the Emergency Communications Center in the Quad-Cities area of Illinois and Iowa. He has 31 years of experience in military and public safety communications.
He must guide a process that has languished at times over the past five years because of local resistance to the merger and consultants who couldn't bring unanimity on where to build and which communications equipment provider to use.
Hitchcock said he has steered three such consolidations and is confident Lake County's will be just as successful.
He first visited the empty rooms in the county government administration building that will serve as the call center.
"What I've seen this morning is good news. The ceiling deck is high enough to accommodate a raised floor where the wiring would go. We also will have a (communications) tower onsite," he said.
He insisted the consolidated police and fire communications network must be designed not only to be flexible enough to handle extraordinary events, but also provide quick response to the non-emergency service calls the public will continue to expect.
"I will have to learn the communities' individual cultures," Hitchcock said.