MARC CHASE: E-911 hope tempered by more folly

2013-08-22T00:00:00Z 2013-08-29T19:29:04Z MARC CHASE: E-911 hope tempered by more follyMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
August 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Maybe it's not yet time to dial 911 on every aspect of Lake County government, but keep your smartphone on keypad mode just in case.

Lake County Board of Commissioners have provided some signs of doing something right regarding the state-mandated consolidation of the county's 17 municipal and county emergency dispatch call centers into one location.

Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub -- one of three people who get a final say on all county contracts -- is adamant that an open bidding process be performed to find the best deal for taxpayers on 911 dispatch equipment. We're talking police radios and call center equipment worth millions of dollars.

Some organizers of the county's E-911 consolidation efforts are pushing for a no-bid contract with Motorola, claiming they're out of time to meet the state's December 2014 deadline for consolidation.

Scheub told me late last week he will support nothing but an openly bid contract, and I believe him.

I don't always agree with him, but once Scheub sets his mind to something, he can be a stubborn bull, smashing through anything that gets in the way. This isn't always a good thing, but in this case it is the right thing for taxpayers.

The other two commissioners seem to be leaning Scheub's way.

Though he favors an open bid for the communications equipment, Commissioner Roosevelt Allen is concerned about meeting the state's consolidation deadline.

Why the concern? The state could withhold millions in 911 user fees from the county if we don't get our act together.

Never mind that county officials have wasted valuable time since the Indiana Legislature's 2008 mandate for more efficiency in our handling of emergency communications.

Still, an open bid would be a dose of breathable oxygen in a county government system that typically produces more foul air than a lakeshore smokestack. State lawmakers need to see that and consider providing more time.

One could even begin feeling better about the 911 consolidation process -- and get the dream-like feeling of being in a different county -- were it not for more folly revealed Wednesday, including the hiring of a technology consultant at $125 per hour.

The consultant, tech firm Mazzitello, was hired to help usher E-911 to fruition. Why they need this consultant beyond the $112,000-per-year E-911 director they just hired should be beyond all of us.

And yet another previously hired E-911 consultant, Tom Dabertin, told Times reporter Bill Dolan on Wednesday that residents shouldn't expect substantial savings from E-911 consolidation. All cities and towns will be asked to pay about what they're now paying for their 17 individual dispatch centers.

With shared resources in a consolidated system, it's hard to imagine why this would be the case -- until one remembers we are still in Lake County.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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