EDITORIAL: E-911 needs to be established before inflating the payroll

2013-09-12T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: E-911 needs to be established before inflating the payroll nwitimes.com
September 12, 2013 12:00 am

The state-mandated consolidation of emergency 911 dispatch facilities in Lake County is supposed to be about more efficient and cost-effective delivery of services vital to region safety.

It's not supposed to be about spending money early and often on positions within the new system for which there is not yet a proven need.

That is why the Lake County Council did the right thing earlier this week by deferring a request from the county's newly hired E-911 Director Brian Hitchcock for the authorization of a $75,000-per-year deputy director.

Hitchcock made the request during a council workshop last week. But so many other priorities exist that are much further to the front of the line than a request for an assistant to run a program that is not yet off the ground.

Costs are already mounting for the E-911 consolidation, with estimated expenses of $20 million or more just to equip the new service.

The county has yet to cast nets for bids to equip what will be the E-911 dispatch center at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point.

There are no desks ready for dispatchers or dispatchers hired to fill those desks.

The county isn't even sure yet how many dispatchers it will take to combine the services of what are currently 17 different county and municipal 911 dispatches.

Lake County Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, appropriately pointed out Tuesday that the county hasn't even produced a full budget for the service.

"Before we add more positions, we need to see a full budget for the E-911 dispatch service," Cid said.

She's right.

And then there's the remaining need for Lake County cities and towns to sign interlocal agreements to join the E-911 consolidation. Without those agreements, there is no regional E-911.

Hitchcock's director's salary already stands at $112,000 per year, making him one of the highest paid officials in Lake County. He was hired, in part, because of his prowess at consolidating municipal dispatches into regional centers.

Hitchcock is being well compensated to do just that. But with no employees yet to manage and no service yet to run, it's hard to justify the need for a $75,000 per year deputy director just yet.

County E-911 planners should focus on the necessary steps at hand before inflating the payroll.

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