DOUG ROSS: Looking for passion? Mention Lake Co. E911

2013-10-25T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Looking for passion? Mention Lake Co. E911By Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

If you were looking for passion Wednesday night, you could have found it at nwi.com.

Because if there's one thing Lake County folks are passionate about, it's E911 consolidation.

Wednesday's lively live chat between Times columnists Marc Chase and Rich James drew 75 visitors and a lot of pointed remarks.

The consolidation law was designed with Lake County in mind. Lake County has far more units of local government than any other Hoosier county.

And just as it has many communities, Lake County still lacks a sense of community. Infighting continues to plague Lake County.

That's especially evident in the E911 consolidation controversy.

The deadline for implementation is 14 months away, with a $2.6 million carrot hanging at the end of the law's stick. That's how much money from 911 surcharges on Lake County phone bills the county would lose if the deadline isn't met.

And yet some in Wednesday's web chat said they'd rather give up that $2.6 million than obey the law. They'd rather fight than switch. 

That's how passionate people are about this issue.

Some say they'd rather seek additional bids -- not just the ones already received by the state -- on new equipment than push hard to meet the deadline.

Lake County needs new radio equipment for easier communication among agencies, but some say that's unnecessary spending.

St. John's plan for dual call centers, as explained by Town Manager Steve Kil, doesn't call for new radios. "We're preparing to use existing technology," Kil said during a meeting with The Times Editorial Board last Friday. That's an additional expense down the road.

Under Kil's plan, the cost per community would go down in south county but up for the urban communities in the north.

Kil's main beef is with the amount the town is expected to contribute under the countywide consolidation plan. So where did that number come from? That $308,001 is how much the town is already spending on dispatch services.

"I think there is a complete lack of respect for cost and savings," Kil said.

I'll agree the numbers are high on the countywide consolidation proposal. But I'd rather see costs overstated and actual prices lower.

I'd also like to see the consolidation completed not on Dec. 31, 2014, but early enough to ensure there are no major glitches when the switch is flipped.

Kil said he would be open to a single call center if his cost concerns, and those of his fellow rebels, are addressed.

So justify each expense spelled out in the countwide interlocal agreement. Make sure money isn't wasted, but don't sacrifice quality.

And stick with a single call center for the sake of efficiency.

Could a single call center build a sense of community in the county? That's the subject of yet another passionate debate.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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