Tweaks made to E-911 agreement between Lake County, Lowell
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent March 16, 2013 10:48PM
Updated: April 18, 2013 6:37AM
A modified version of the emergency call center consolidation between Lowell and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department was pushed forward by the County Council last week despite opposition to the changes by the sheriff.
Lake County Council members voted 6-0 to approve the revised interlocal agreement that would transfer E-911 services to the county dispatch center and give Lake County Sheriff John Buncich two employees from Lowell to handle the additional work at his center.
However the agreement keeps the workers employed by the town of Lowell, and receiving town benefits. Originally the two dispatchers were to become employees of the sheriff’s department and Lowell would pay $100,000 a year to the county to cover the costs.
John Bushemi, the sheriff’s attorney, said there are many reasons the sheriff opposed the interlocal as it has been revised.
“He is not in favor of the interlocal as revised because it does not consolidate two PSAPs (Public Service Answering Points),” Buncich said. The consolidation was supposed to be the first of 16 and used to determine any glitches that may arise when other communities begin to consolidating.
Buncich said the new agreement would interrupt the chain of command and make it difficult for him to have immediate control of people working under his command since he would have to go back to Lowell to have any disciplinary measures implemented.
County officials say they understand the importance of the pilot consolidation but this is the only way financially they can proceed. At this time they are unable to place any new employees in the county’s cash-strapped health insurance pool until a long-term plan for making the insurance program solvent is created.
“We are not prepared nor can we take on … more employees until we find a way to provide affordable health care,” Lake County Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said.
Ray Szarmach, county attorney, said the way the ordinance is written Buncich will have control of the employees even though they will still be employed by the town.
Lowell Town Council President Edgar Corns and Councilman Craig Earley said the indecision surrounding the interlocal agreement is causing havoc in the police department by creating uncertainty among dispatchers about what will happen. Soon, Corns said, the town will need to pull police officers off the road to man the dispatch center if the consolidation does not occur because some of the dispatchers are retiring.
“We’ve got to settle this thing one way or the other,” Corns said.
The revised agreement will need to be approved by the Lowell Town Council and Corns said town officials are ready to move forward.
“We’re in a critical situation,” Corns said.