Lake County officials warn against not joining 911 pact
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent June 7, 2014 10:38AM
Updated: July 9, 2014 6:30AM
CROWN POINT — Failing to become part of the new consolidated E-911 center in Lake County may be putting public safety in jeopardy for residents in holdout communities, county officials warn.
Lake County Council members had strong words last week for the officials of St. John, Cedar Lake and Schererville, who have yet to sign the interlocal agreement making them part of the state-mandated consolidation of the county’s public safety answering points into one — but no more than two — centers by Dec. 31.
“Come Jan. 1, I would not want to live in any of those communities,” Council President Ted Bilksi, D-Hobart, said.
One of the key purposes of the consolidation is interoperability between departments throughout the state. As part of the consolidation the infrastructure and equipment providing emergency communications is being upgraded. Once the consolidation is complete and online, the existing 911 equipment in the communities will no longer be able to communicate.
“It will be a technological nightmare to make it all work,” said Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point. Strong is the council’s representative on the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission.
Strong said if the three communities elect to create their own E-911 center they would have communications not only with the county but with other state agencies and neighboring Illinois.
“They could be putting their communities in jeopardy,” Strong said.
Bilski said he was concerned about the financial impact of having three communities not participate. As the work moves forward to build out the center and hiring the employees the county needs to be prepared to deal with the impact the last minute sign-up of any of the three might have on the process.
Nicole Bennett, attorney for the E-911 commission, said if the three communities do not sign the agreement authorizing the property tax levy transfer by the fall deadline, the Department of Local Government Finance will not transfer their levies.
Plans already call for purchasing enough equipment to outfit the entire county regardless of whether the three sign up or not, she said. However, the county can expect to see a cost savings in staffing if the new center does not have to provide coverage for the three communities.
“The largest area of savings will be employees,” she said.