ST. JOHN | Town officials in St. John are reportedly dropping opposition to the financial arrangements to create an all-in-one Lake County E-911 consolidation.
Herbert Cruz, chairman of the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission, said in a statement Tuesday that St. John will join other cities and towns in a countywide police and fire dispatch service, which state law requires must be done by the end of 2014.
"We are not going to blindly sign the interlocal," St. John Town Manager Steve Kil said Tuesday. "There are still concerns we need to work through, but we decided in the light of changes made in response to our financial concerns. We agreed we would work toward one (emergency dispatch center)."
St. John officials previously criticized the county's model as too expensive because it demanded cities and towns contribute $56 million in income tax revenues into the county service. Kil had called for south suburban police and fire departments to form a separate communications district that didn't include Lake County's urban centers, in which most police and fire service calls originate.
Cruz stated the county removed demands St. John found objectionable.
The county will now bear the E-911 infrastructure cost of paying for major communications equipment and let the municipalities keep all public safety income tax dollars to buy communications radios of the municipalities' choice.
"Sometimes debate brings all parties together, and I believe that St. John's actions helped foster the cohesive approach that we now are seeing in support of consolidation," Cruz said. "Due to their concerns, we have a better interlocal agreement."
Highland Town Councilman Bernie Zeman said Tuesday he intends to vote for the E-911 consolidation agreement, which he said St. John officials improved with their criticism.
"We need to thank Steve Kil and their gang," Zeman said. He said Highland officials have asked the county to monitor town schools the way town police officers do today.
Officials in Crown Point, East Chicago, Griffith, Hammond, Hobart, Lake Station and Munster have recently spoken in support of the interlocal agreement. County officials plan to request similar commitments next week in Merrillville and Schererville.