Lake County communities weigh emergency dispatch consolidation agreement
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correpondent October 6, 2013 11:34PM
Updated: November 8, 2013 6:26AM
ST. JOHN — Cities and towns are getting their first look at the draft of a new interlocal agreement needed for the consolidation of the county’s emergency dispatch services.
That first look includes the cost of the project price tag and how much each unit is expected to pay.
Along with the portion of their property tax levies certified by their clerk-treasurers as the amount used for 911 services, each unit’s contribution includes a portion of their public safety income tax revenues from 2014 to 2024 to pay for the almost $36.2 million that is needed to get the project up and running.
That portion will be a fixed amount calculated as one-fourth of the 2014 collections of the 0.25-percent public safety tax. That amount will then be their constant contribution for the next 10 years regardless of whether the income tax revenues increase or decrease.
Nicole Bennett, attorney for the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission, said Friday the document would be disseminated to city and town attorneys and elected officials immediately following the meeting after members authorized her to send the document.
A special meeting has been scheduled for Oct. 29 in the Syd Garner Auditorium at the Lake County Government Center for elected officials and attorneys to ask questions and address any changes they may want to see included. State officials as well will be invited to the meeting.
According to the agreement, it will take close to $36.2 million for the building renovation, equipment, first responder radios, towers, computers and other equipment for the main public safety answer point in the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point and the backup site in East Chicago.
Total contribution from the public safety income tax contribution of all units is roughly $5.7 million. Bennett said the amount would be capped at the 0.25 percent of the 0.25 percent in the year 2014, when that is determined later next year, and would remain constant throughout the duration of the 10-year commitment.
A portion of that revenue, $1.5 million, will go toward the annual operating costs; the rest would pay off the bond issue. Yearly operating costs are expected to run about $11 million. The remainder of the operating costs would be funded by the $6.9 million levy shift and the $2.6 million a year the country receives from the state 911 revenues.
Herbert Cruz, commission chairman, said members must focus on getting the agreement signed in communities that are struggling with the idea. He said some communities will not sign, in light of the current attempt by St. John officials to create two public safety answering points instead of one and dividing the county by geography and crime level, but many will, and the commission needs to see where it stands.
“A lot of cities and towns, they get it,” Cruz said.