ST. JOHN | Some police chiefs are challenging a consultant's estimate of the contributions cities and towns must make to operate a consolidated E-911 system next year.
"St. John's is not a fair and equitable amount. The numbers are flawed," St. John Police Chief Fred Frego said during Thursday's advisory board meeting of police and fire chiefs overseeing the merger of community-based radio dispatch centers into a single countywide network mandated by state law.
Other police and fire chiefs agreed to have their municipal fiscal officers double-check the county's dollar amounts by next month before their communities will agree to sign an interlocal agreement binding them to E-911 payments for future years.
County officials announced last week they expect cities and towns to collectively contribute $6.6 million annually to help meet the payroll and outside services and supplies needed to respond to 450,000 calls to police and fire services. State and county funds would provide another $1.4 million.
The county hired the Merrillville accounting firm of Cender & Co. to examine how much cities and towns now spend on answering 911 calls to ensure it didn't include non-emergency service calls.
County officials estimate St. John's share of the cost will be $308,001 and Highland's to be $293,208.
St. John officials said that isn't even-handed because they only serviced 4,334 emergency calls in 2012. If the county's financial plan is put into place, that would result in St. John taxpayers being charged $71 per 911 call, while Highland, which fielded 11,839 emergency calls last year, would be charged less than $25 per call.
Frego said, "Some communities are being penalized for paying their dispatchers more than others."
Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen,D-Gary, said, "We have to follow the state statute, which is based on your (tax) levy. We can't follow 911 traffic counts."
Other chiefs suggested that some communities either didn't understand what financial data they were being asked to provide Cender or may have misled the consultant.
Allen shot back, "You provided the numbers so if they are inaccurate, you provided the inaccuracies."
Steve Dalton, director of development for Cender, said, "We accepted your numbers as submitted. It follows how much you have spent over the last three years on 911.Sixteen of the 18 communities will be contributing less than the amount you are currently spending on all dispatch costs."