INDIANAPOLIS | Two Northwest Indiana state senators who spearheaded the effort to reduce 911 expenses by requiring counties to consolidate their emergency telephone answering centers believe Lake County needs to get with the program.
"The consolidation was done for the purpose of helping to save money," said state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes. "The idea that they have to go out and build a brand new facility seems a little bit out-of-sync with the original purpose."
Lake County officials have proposed spending $30 million to outfit two call centers with communications and dispatch gear, replacing 18 answering centers currently scattered throughout the county. Under a pending interlocal agreement, municipalities would be required to hand over local tax dollars to fund the new centers.
Crown Point Mayor David Uran on Wednesday threatened a legal challenge to the 2008 state law limiting counties to no more than two 911 centers by Dec. 31, 2014. Uran claimed the consolidation requirement is an unconstitutional unfunded mandate.
The Indiana Constitution does not prohibit unfunded mandates.
State Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield, said rather than waste money on a legal challenge he's likely to lose, Uran should look to other large counties, such as Allen (Fort Wayne) and Vanderburgh (Evansville), as a model for Lake consolidation.
"Virtually all the counties in the state of Indiana have been able to accomplish that task, and in many cases there have been significant savings," Hershman said.
A county that fails to meet the consolidation deadline will lose all 911 funding under a law enacted this year that was sponsored by Hershman. Tallian helped write it.
If Uran takes the state to court, Attorney General Greg Zoeller will fight to preserve Indiana's 911 consolidation law, said Zoeller spokesman Bryan Corbin.
"The role of the attorney general's office is to defend the statutes the Legislature has passed from legal challenges," Corbin said.