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Hobart council gives grudging preliminary approval to 911 consolidation

Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor wanted know how non-emergency calls would be handled consoliated 911 system. | Post-Tribune File Photo

Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor wanted to know how non-emergency calls would be handled in the consoliated 911 system. | Post-Tribune File Photo

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Updated: December 19, 2013 10:52PM

HOBART — The City Council Wednesday unanimously — but not wholeheartedly — gave preliminary approval to the E-911 consolidation agreement on first reading.

The agreement, mandated by the state, consolidates 17 municipal police and fire dispatchers and Lake County dispatchers into one county-wide system.

Councilman Matt Claussen, D, at-large, a member of the Hobart Police Department, said the consolidation will not improve public safety, as lawmakers claim.

“This will cost us money and services will be less to the citizens of Hobart,” Claussen said. “We don’t even know how the calls will be dispatched.”

Police Chief Rick Zormier told the board the consolidation won’t be cheap for the city. He said every municipality will have to switch to new portable radios costing $4,000 each, compared to the $600 each the city pays for each of the department’s current radios.

He said between the police and fire departments, Hobart would need to buy 100 radios at a total cost of about $400,000.

Zormier said the city also may need to hire civilians to monitor people in the city jail when there no longer will be dispatchers at the police department and it may have to pay unemployment costs for any of its dispatchers who aren’t hired by the county-wide system or don’t want to be part of it.

He said they could collect unemployment for up to 18 months.

Tom Dabertin, with Shared Resources Inc., a consultant on the consolidation for the county, said there would be 100 full-time and 40 part-time dispatchers under the consolidation, compared to 176 dispatchers throughout the county now.

He said the police chiefs’ input would be sought in determining who would be hired.

“The consolidation does create room for advancement to supervisor or management,” Dabertin said.

He also said consolidation was never about saving money.

“This is really post-9/11, to improve communications,” Dabertin said.

Mayor Brian Snedecor asked who would handle non-emergency calls. Dabertin said all 911 calls, including water main breaks and even barking dogs, would go to the consolidated dispatch center.

When asked if the county dispatchers would know if an address is in Hobart or Merrillville, given that some Hobart homes have a Merrillville mailing address, Dabertin said the system used will be able to determine the location from which a call originates.

Dabertin said six communities have approved the interlocal agreement on second reading so far. He said the deadline for consolidation is Dec. 31, 2014, but all municipalities will need to get on board before then so the county can move forward on implementing $19 million in capital improvements and selecting staff.

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