Officials get first look at proposed county site for combined dispatch center
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent October 25, 2012 1:16PM
Updated: November 27, 2012 10:53AM
CROWN POINT — The Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission members Thursday got a first look at what a consolidated E-911 center in the Lake County Government Center would look like and what it might take to make that happen.
Joseph Mrak, senior vice president with RQAW Consulting Engineers, provided preliminary layout details and preliminary cost estimates on retrofitting the third-floor conference room and Health Department offices in the Government Center into a consolidated E-911 center.
“Generally speaking, this space works pretty well,” Mrak said.
As part of the plan, five additional dispatch terminals are proposed for Hammond to create a “dark” back-up center in case the primary call center were to fail.
The space is a little smaller than the 13,000-square-foot site identified in East Chicago, the former Blaw-Knox Co. administration building. Mrak said the difference will have little impact because the government center site will not have to house the mechanical features because they are already there. Like the East Chicago site, the government center also has room for close to 7,000 square feet in future expansion.
Initial plans call for a single entrance with a small public waiting area toward the front of the center. The rest of the facility will be self-contained and will feature 25 to 40 dispatch terminals. It is expected the center will staff 15 full-time dispatchers in three shifts around the clock. It is expected about 80 dispatchers will be needed. The dispatch area will be off-limits to the public. There will be restrooms, lockers and bunk beds for dispatchers in the event of a lasting emergency.
An emergency generator will provide redundant electricity that will allow the E-911 operations to continue even if the rest of the county building loses power. It will also have redundant HVAC systems to provide additional cooling for the equipment if necessary and keep the center operational in the event of a problem with the county building HVAC system.
Instead of replacing the exterior windows with bulletproof glass, the proposal calls for using Kevlar panels to secure the corridor wall that separates the operation center from office space.
Mrak said hard construction and soft costs for the project are estimated high at about $3.5 million. An additional about $175,000 in contingency costs brings the total to roughly $3.68 million.
Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub said the county estimates it can move the Health Department to the Westwind building, the former county convalescent home on 93rd Avenue, for about $300,000.
“These are very conservative numbers. They are very safe,” Mrak said.
Estimates to convert the East Chicago site, located in the 4400 block of Railroad Avenue, range from about $3.896 million to about $4.285 million. Mrak was asked to prepare a more detailed comparison of the two options for E-911 Commission members.
Herbert Cruz, Emergency Management Agency director for East Chicago, encouraged commission members to look at the East Chicago building again before making a final decision.
“It’s a tremendous site,” Cruz said.
Lowell Police Chief John Shelhart said the county building is already owned by all Lake County taxpayers and its central location in the county seat should satisfy both north and south county elected officials. It will also save money on utilities and rent, which will be paid by the county.
“I think this commission needs to think very carefully (about using the county building),” Shelhart said.
Members of the E-911 Commission are expected to make their site recommendation between the Government Center and East Chicago at the Nov. 29 meeting.
Consolidation of the county’s emergency dispatch centers is required by state law to be complete by the end of 2014.