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Firm to analyze 911 center financing

Updated: April 23, 2013 12:21PM



CROWN POINT — While the Lake County Commissioners were relieved that a heavy burden was lifted from their shoulders, local police may not be sure.

The commissioners on April 17 awarded a contract to Cender & Co. of Merrillville to do a financial analysis of the state-mandaed emergency 911 consolidated phone service.

The firm will be the ones telling each and every city and town how much it is going to cost them to operate a central calling office.

Cender will be paid $125,000 to work for the county over the next 15 months.

A month ago Sheriff John Buncich and his attorney John Bushemi told the cities, towns and departments what it will cost them to be part of the consolidated 911 system.

Every city and town will lose tax dollars, the part of the property taxes that go to their own 911 dispatchers. The telephone user fees that are now being collected by the state and not turned over to the 911 local operations would move to the county, if the state can part with that $2.5 million dollars paid by Lake County telephone customers.

Acting Cedar Lake Chief of Police Jerry Smith was at the commissioners meeting. After the meeting he said, “I want to see how long it takes for the 911 center to take not just 10 percent of our 911 funds but all of it.”

Some departments point out that this might work in the sparsely populated counties where the county sheriff is basically the only law enforcement agency. Sometimes they forget that every little community across the state also has a volunteer fire department, but the county police 911 operators have been running their calls for years.

Get into a large county like Lake County and it is not so simple. Almost all municipalities, with the exception of the Town of Winfield and parts of Gary that are served by the Lake County Sheriff’s Police, have their own police departments.

In some small Lake County towns the 911 operator is also the receptionist, secretary and sometimes the only person in the police station.

These communities will now have to hire people to serve the public by being there as receptionists. Smith was concerned that they will lose the 911 funds and then have to add people to the payroll to fill the other needs.



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