ST. JOHN | Lake County officials outlined a compromise Thursday designed to calm opposition among suburban municipalities to the cost of a future E-911 emergency communications consolidation.
"We think this will result in one plan and one voice and let us move forward," Herbert Cruz, chairman of the County Public Safety Communications Commission, said at the meeting.
The deal is meant to head off a recent effort by Cedar Lake, Lowell, St. John and Schererville authorities to break away from a single county network, claiming it would be too expensive for smaller communities. They propose splitting the county into north and south communications districts.
Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, said county officials are offering to bear most of the $36.2 million cost of building and equipping a merged police and fire dispatch service that is supposed to be launched before the end of next year.
That could eliminate objections municipal officials have raised about previous county demand that the cities and towns contribute $56 million from their new local income tax revenues over the next decade to provide the communications infrastructure.
The municipalities could then spend that $56 million on other public safety services.
County officials credited Munster Town Manager Tom DeGiulio with suggesting the compromise.
St. John Town Councilman Mike Forbes, who didn't attend Thursday's meeting, said he has heard of the proposal but won't comment until he sees it detailed in writing.
As part of the compromise, county officials also said they would allow cities and towns to choose and purchase their own brand of portable communications radios for first responders.
Thomas Dabertin, a county consultant on E-911 issues, said that concession could eliminate tension between county officials, who want to find the cheapest vendor through a competitive bidding process, and municipal officials, who want to purchase equipment from Motorola Solutions, of Schaumburg.
Motorola already equips many local departments and has been endorsed as such by the state's Quality Purchasing Agreement department.
Under the compromise, the county will still seek competitive bids, and cities and towns are free to go with the county or cut their own deals, officials said Thursday.
Cities and towns will have to pay for the portable radios from their own funds. The county has estimated the cost of buying radios for all public safety responders at $14.9 million.
Cities and towns will be free to buy a smaller number of radios to be shared among multiple police officers and firefighters or use existing radios that already meet the interoperability specifications.