ST. JOHN | Area officials agree movement is needed to meet the Dec. 31, 2014, deadline to establish a consolidated Lake County E-911 network, but they continue to debate how to make it happen.
The county Public Safety Communications Commission on Friday agreed to distribute a proposed interlocal agreement to municipal officials.
The agreement estimates telephone and radio communications hardware will cost about $36.2 million.
The agreement also would ask municipalities to shift property taxes currently obligated to city and town 911 police and fire budgets to a consolidated county E-911 service.
Nicole Bennett, the lawyer for the E-911 consolidation, said figures included in the agreement are only estimates, and Lake County elected officials are asked to review the document and provide their opinions.
The commission also discussed St. John's proposal to have two operating E-911 emergency centers in Lake County.
St. John Town Manager Steven Kil told officials St. John has received two legal opinions that there can be two operating E-911 emergency centers in Lake County, and it would not be mandatory for municipalities to transfer their entire property tax levy earmarked for city and town 911 budgets.
Sheriff John Buncich is concerned the new plan could further delay efforts for a consolidated E-911 network in Lake County.
He said the county has been examining the consolidation since 2008, and "we're looking like a bunch of idiots" if officials haven't achieved it by the 2014 deadline.
St. John's plan would create two separate public safety answering points, or PSAP, in north and south Lake County.
One PSAP would include Cedar Lake, Crown Point, Dyer, Griffith, Highland, Lowell, Munster, Schererville, St. John and county police who cover rural south county. The north county PSAP would incorporate East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Hobart, Lake Station, Merrillville, New Chicago and Whiting.
St. John Town Council President Mike Forbes said municipalities designated in the south county PSAP were selected by geography and because they are "like communities."
At one point during Friday's meeting, Buncich called for a poll of the south communities represented at the meeting to indicate if they support the St. John plan, but he later withdrew his request.
Schererville Police Chief David Dowling said it would have been premature to make a decision about the plan.
He agrees the commission must move forward with plans to consolidate E-911 services but said there could be aspects of St. John's proposal that could be incorporated into those efforts.