911 merger panel tabs new chairman

2013-06-29T19:44:00Z 911 merger panel tabs new chairmanAnna Ortiz anna.ortiz@nwi.com nwitimes.com
June 29, 2013 7:44 pm  • 

ST. JOHN | The Public Safety Communications Commission on Friday elected Herbie Cruz, director of emergency management and 911 communications, as its chairman.

Hobart Fire Chief Brian Taylor, who had been chairman, resigned from the Public Safety Communications board earlier this month after after quitting the Fire Department to become a Hobart police officer.

After the vote, Cruz took a seat with Vice Chairman Steve Scheckel and Nicole Bennett, the commission's attorney, at the head of the table.

"I think Herbie has the skill, knowledge and personality for the position," Scheckel said.

Cruz, who has been on the commission since it formed, said he's seen "a little negativity" in the board, but now it's in the past. He also emphasized the importance of working together.

"I think it's going to be key to keep the commission board positive," Cruz said.

Of past chairman Taylor, Scheckel said he's "hanging up the fire hose and putting on the gun belt." Taylor will be sworn in as a member of the Hobart Police Department on Monday.

Cruz said the commission has already addressed two major hurdles in leadership, recently appointing E-911 director Brian Hitchcock, and funding.

"The passing of the Lake County income tax increase helped a great deal," Cruz said.

Bennett said the two recent appointees are coming in on tight deadlines that need to be met for the state-mandated consolidation, where 17 county and municipal police and fire communication systems must merge by the end of 2014.

All participating towns must sign the interlocal agreement, or local departments will lose millions of dollars in state grants for public safety. Bennett said if one doesn't sign, then none of the towns will receive any funding.

Bennett said Cruz is an excellent choice as chairman because he has been on the committee since day one and has seen the "ebb and flow" of the consolidation process. 

"I'm hoping to work closely with subcommittees and the three commissions in order to get this accomplished on time," Cruz said. "In working closely with Hitchcock, I think we will get a lot accomplished."

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