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Effort aims to sell E-911 consolidation deal

Updated: January 6, 2014 1:17PM

LOWELL — Representatives from the E-911 commission were in Lowell on Wednesday to continue their whistle-stop tour aimed at garnering support for the consolidated dispatch interlocal agreement.

Lowell is one of five of the 17 communities in Lake County that had signed a memorandum of understanding with the town of St. John in support of dividing the county into two public safety answering points instead of the one consolidated center. Other communities in the agreement are Cedar Lake, Schererville and Dyer.

Herbert Cruz, chairman of the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission, on Tuesday announced St. John has agreed to drop its plans for a separate center and move forward with the single dispatch call center after ironing out a few more details in the interlocal agreement.

“There is a lot of advantages and synergies,” E-911 director Brian Hitchcock said.

Nicole Bennett, attorney for the E-911 commission, said she met with Steve Kil, St. John town manager, earlier in the day to address those remaining concerns, which were shared by the five communities.

The most significant of those concerns is how participants who transfer their E-911 levies to the county will pay for dispatch service if the deadline is not met and the center is not up and fully operational by Jan. 1, 2015.

Bennett said other concerns raised included adding language to the interlocal to prevent political hirings and to ensure county commissioners would continue to have the E-911 commission recommend potential candidates for key administrative positions such as director.

Support for the interlocal agreement creating the one consolidated center has been growing since the St. John proposal prompted significant changes in how county officials planned on funding the center. The county will be assuming all operating costs that exceed the property tax levy transfer as well as the capital costs for constructing the center. Each participant then will be responsible for purchasing radios for their emergency responders.

Crown Point on Monday became the first city to have both the mayor and city council sign the interlocal agreement. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland have come out in favor of the consolidation and have said they will sign the interlocal once it is approved by their city councils.

Bennett said so far the commission has received verbal commitments from nine of the participants and have met with most of them to discuss the interlocal. She said officials were in Highland and Griffith this week and will be in Merrillville next week.

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