News : Lake E-911 Call Center Can Be Seen, Not Just Heard
Crown Point, IN, USA, Sept 15, 2015 -- The much-delayed and -disputed Lake County E-911 Call Center is ready for its close-up.
The electronics-intensive space on the second floor of the Lake County Government Center, 2293 N. Main St., will be open for public tours from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Friday.
It will be the nerve center of police fire and emergency medical communications for 15 cities and towns and the Lake County Sheriff's Department, which are consolidating their individual radio dispatch rooms under a state mandate.
The staff of 95 dispatchers will begin later this month moving community by community into the facility where all calls for emergency services outside of Cedar Lake and Schererville are gathered and sent to public safety workers in the field.
Brian Hitchcock, county E-911 director, said the center should be fully loaded and functional by the end of October.
Cedar Lake and Schererville have opted out of the county communications network and are building a separate Public Safety Answering Point center in Schererville. Schererville Town Council President Michael Troxell said it should be operational before the end of this month.
"Our last terminal is being installed today or tomorrow. We are testing some programming, and training has been going and very shortly we will be up and running," Troxell said Tuesday.
Hitchcock and Troxell said a communications link still exists between their separate systems.
Hitchcock said, "All police and fire chiefs have been nothing less than astonishing in working with us. They have made the difference. It's the jewel of this consolidation."
Seven years ago, the General Assembly ordered all 92 counties to merge their community-based dispatch operations by no later than 2014.
Public safety leaders from 19 of the county's cities and towns first met the mandate with skepticism that it would ever work, then clashed with Lake County Commissioners over a call center location. They wanted two in East Chicago and Hobart, but county officials balked at the cost and instead ordered a single center at the county government campus here.
Disagreement over which radio system to purchase caused further delays. The county finally borrowed to build and equip the center, erect a network of six communications towers and buy mobile radios for police, fire and other safety workers.
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Construction delays and cost overruns forced the county's dispatcher staff to continue working in Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Gary, Griffith, Hammond, Highland, Hobart, Lake Station, Lowell, Munster, Merrillville, New Chicago, St. John or Whiting this year past the state deadline.
The scattered work sites resulted in dispatchers having to work significant overtime, and a lack of an interlocal agreement among Cedar Lake, Schererville and the rest of the county to support one another's communications has led to the state's withholding nearly $1 million in telephone user fees.
Troxell said Cedar Lake and Schererville are still negotiating with county over an interlocal agreement.
"We just received Friday some correspondence from the county. We are reviewing that and will answer them shortly," Troxell said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Friday, September 18, 2015
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