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Despite holdouts, Lake County 911 center designs begin

Updated: July 29, 2014 6:12AM



CROWN POINT — Plans to use East Chicago as a backup for Lake County’s consolidated dispatch center are moving forward despite efforts by three towns in the county to have their dispatch center serve the purpose.

Members of the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission approved a motion requesting the county begin design preparations for the so-called dark site in East Chicago. Commission member Eldon Strong, who represents the County Council on the panel, was the lone no vote.

After the meeting Strong said he was opposed to East Chicago as the location for a dark site backup to the consolidated dispatch because of logistics.

“East Chicago is not a good tactical location,” Strong said, adding he is basing that decision on his 35 years in law enforcement. Strong said he does not have another location in mind, just anyplace that has a better tactical position.

“East Chicago is not a good tactical location for the back-up site due to the industry in the community,” Strong said.

Meanwhile, two of three communities proposing their own second public safety answering point, or PSAP, have signed on to the plan and are moving forward. Schererville and Cedar Lake town councils have signed an interlocal agreement to create a consolidated dispatch center between the three. St. John has yet to consider the interlocal.

Schererville Councilman Jerry Tippy said via email the communities attempting to form their own consolidated dispatch “are less than two weeks away from completing our due diligence and putting together a plan for the 2nd PSAP. An important part of the plan is for the two PSAPs to back-up each other.”

“The 2nd PSAP would be built-out to facilitate the additional required dispatch positions; saving the county PSAP the expected one million dollar plus cost to build-out a ‘dark site,’ ” Tippy said.

If the three towns create a second PSAP and the county constructs a dark site in East Chicago, there would be three E-911 dispatch centers.

“The law states that the county shall have no more than two. If both live PSAPs and the dark site are in place on 1/1/15, we will be in violation. I think the county should talk to us before they move forward with a dark site,” Tippy wrote.

“If we sit at the table and look at this from the view of taxpayers, and work on a plan that benefits everyone in the county, I feel confident that we can work out a compromise,” he said.

County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen Jr., D-Gary, the chairman of the E-911 commission, on Friday said that with the Dec. 31 deadline for consolidation fast approaching the county has to move forward with plans for both the main and backup sites.

He said there can be only one interlocal agreement in the county and the three communities so far are not part of it, so their dispatch center cannot be the second in the county or serve as the backup to the main site. Allen said he would be more understanding if the three towns were signed on to the county’s consolidation agreement and were trying to convince the other 15 members of the merits of their plan.

“They’re not even part of the group. ... I don’t understand how they think they can force us to use their location as a second location,” Allen said.

So far no one outside the three communities has seen any plan or proposal, Allen said. The county also has not seen the interlocal agreement creating the three-town consolidation. He said so far the effort by the three has been clandestine and that the county has to move on.

Allen said he remains hopeful the three will join the other 15 units in the county consolidation.

“We just have to move forward. That’s what we are doing,” he said. “We still hope that they will come on board. We can’t coerce them. They have to come on board voluntarily.”



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