Four communities still holding out on 911 consolidation pact
BY CARRIE NAPOLEON Post-Tribune correspondent February 27, 2014 4:06PM
Updated: April 1, 2014 10:19AM
ST. JOHN — Failure to get the E-911 interlocal agreement finalized soon by the four remaining holdout communities could jeopardize efforts to consolidate the county’s dispatch services.
Nicole Bennett, attorney for the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission, on Thursday said the failure to get all communities to sign on to the interlocal agreement could delay the process. Schererville, Highland, St. John and Cedar Lake have resisted signing the consolidation pact.
“We have met with the final four towns that have not yet signed on. Hopefully their questions have been answered,” Bennett said.
Bennett said key among the concerns from the communities was how the county planned to pay for the estimated $21 million bond for the equipment and build-out.
“They were very much concerned how the bond was to be paid. They wanted confirmation it would not be funded with property tax dollars,” Bennett said. The county plans to use its portion of the new public safety income tax to make payments on the bond issue.
Concern also focused on how dispatch services would be handled in individual communities if the consolidation was not fully operational by the Jan. 1 deadline and they no longer had a tax levy to pay for services of their own. If that does occur, Bennett said, county dispatchers will operate the dispatch centers of communities that have not been rolled into the consolidation until it is complete.
Bennett said county commissioners plan to approve a request at their March 19 meeting from the E-911 panel’s executive board that officials reach out to Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller for assistance in getting the last four communities to participate.
St. John town manager Steve Kil after the meeting said officials from all four of the communities who attended Tuesday left with their questions answered and with a better understanding of the plan. He said questions on the financing and operations have been cleared up.
“We feel much more comfortable,” Kil said.
Kil had been a proponent of a plan to divide the county into two dispatch centers, prompting other similar communities to consider how they planned to participate in the consolidation to meet the state mandate.
The four town councils are set to consider the interlocal at their respective March meetings. Kil declined to comment on whether he will recommend to his town council that St. John participate in the consolidation.
“They will have my recommendation in March,” Kil said.