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Lake County emergency dispatch panel urges communities to jump on board

Updated: December 30, 2012 3:46PM



CROWN POINT — The Lake County Emergency Communications Commission, hosting an informational session Wednesday for consolidating the county’s many 911 dispatch centers into one system, urged community leaders to take action.

Members of the commission, along with state representatives and state senators, explained to 18 municipality representatives that they have to work together on consolidation or face losing as much as $2.6 million in state funds for emergency dispatch centers.

Indiana state law requires that a maximum of two E-911 dispatch centers begin operating in every county by Dec. 31, 2014, or those counties face losing state funding.

Representatives asked questions regarding a draft agreement circulated among the communities, and the 18-member commission explained that the draft would show regional commitment to consolidation. The agreement does not spell out funding or operating structures.

Assistant Commission Chairman Steve Scheckel of Munster said consolidating the emergency systems is not an option, and communities should not expect a “hail Mary” change in the law from the Indiana General Assembly.

“I think everyone would like to keep things the way they are,” Scheckel said, “but that really isn’t an option right now, and our state representatives are trying to help us, but we have to show downstate that we can work together.”

The commission asked community representatives to send any concerns to John Bushemi, the commission attorney. After receiving feedback, the commission will revise its plan and present a final draft to the communities and Lake County Council to sign.

Concerns focused on how the communities will be required to pay into the emergency system, since each community handles the cost of operating 911 dispatch services through a community 911 levy or in their general budget. Once the dispatch centers are consolidated, the state will incrementally transfer the 911 levy from the cities and towns to the county.

Bushemi said funding is not set by the county but by the Department of Local Government Finance. Often countywide systems are determined by call volume, said Jeff Cicillian, county 911 director.

A second concern was a provision that would allow a local government unit to terminate its participation in the agreement a year after providing written notice to the E-911 Commission. The communities agreed that it should be harder for one community to leave, since it would negatively affect the entire county.

A commission meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday at the St. John Police Department.



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