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Lake County Council to tweak E-911 agreement

Updated: December 10, 2013 4:32PM

CROWN POINT — Lake County Council members are ready to approve the interlocal agreement for the consolidated E-911 system pending a few additional tweaks to the language.

In its work session Thursday, the council heard from E-911 officials on the status of the interlocal agreement and the most recent changes made to address concerns from the five communities that entered into a memorandum of understanding with St. John to form a second dispatch center.

Nicole Bennett, attorney for the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission, said one of the main concerns those communities had is who would pay for dispatch services after the property tax levy was finalized and if the consolidation is not completed on time.

Ted Bilski, council president, said the county likely would staff those departments with its own E-911 employees until the consolidation is complete.

“We can’t go back to them (to pay) after we take their dough,” Bilski said.

Officials said they are also looking into the possibility of using new fees to pay for the $15 million to $20 million in capital improvements needed along with additional operational costs.

Sheriff John Buncich suggested the county look to create a traffic violation deferral program. Under a deferral program, traffic offenders would have the option of avoiding court by pleading guilty and paying a $10 fee. The fee would apply to any traffic violation written anywhere in Lake County and would generate a substantial amount of new revenue.

Depending on how the program works, it may need state legislative approval. Buncich said state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, plans to introduce the measure in the coming legislative session. Buncich said he would like to see it in place by July 1 so the county could begin to accumulate funding for the consolidated dispatch.

Council members will consider the final interlocal Tuesday. The document is set to be heard by several municipalities including Highland this week.

So far, Crown Point is the only city where both the city council and mayor have signed the interlocal agreement. The city will have to resign the final revision for approval. Mayors from Hammond and East Chicago also have voiced support for the revised agreement along with officials from Schererville, Munster and Highland.

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