Lake County to look at county-owned site for 911 command center
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent September 29, 2012 8:54PM
Updated: November 1, 2012 6:38AM
Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Merrillville, said he knows he ruffled some feathers by looking into site alternatives for the proposed combined E-911 command center on his own.
Scheub Thursday apologized to the E-911 commission for taking an engineering firm out to the old Westwind building on the county government center property to find out if it could possibly be converted to the command center for less money than new construction. He did so without notifying the commission chairman or members of the facilities committee.
The move drew the ire of Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller, chair of the committee, and some of its members.
“It was dropped on me like a bombshell,” Miller said, adding he was upset professionally by the slight and should have been consulted or at least been part of the examination of the building. Miller said he does not oppose the proposal, but he is not happy how it came forward.
The commissioner said he was not trying to usurp anyone’s authority by looking at the existing county properties outside of the scope of the commission. He was just trying to look for some potential cost-savings options in light of the county’s anticipated $17 million budget shortfall in 2013. The county’s Emergency Management Agency currently uses part of the building, which was once also used by the Indiana National Guard.
While one engineer said it could not be done, a second engineer said by knocking out the floors and raising the ceiling the building could be converted into the command center. A preliminary estimate for the conversion is about $3.7 million.
Scheub said when the consolidation process started the chiefs went according to the engineering company to find the two best sites for the consolidated center. Those sites were in East Chicago and Hobart. As officials got further into the process, they realized they also needed to consider compatible equipment for all the participating departments, which only adds to the cost.
The estimated cost for converting Westwind is about half the cost of building the East Chicago site.
“That’s something realistic. Then we can spend more money of something more important,” Scheub said.
Officials are expected to tour the site with the engineer for a review before the next commission meeting.