News : County Officials Remain at Odds After Deadline
Crown Point, IN, USA, June 25, 2015 -- The hope of Lake County reaching an agreement to consolidate police, fire and emergency medical service communications remains alive but shapeless, six months after missing the state deadline.
County officials and the two suburban communities at odds with them differed Thursday about how much progress is being made to an E-911 resolution.
Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, chairman of the county Public Safety Communications Commission and Nicole Bennett, attorney for the county's E-911 service, lamented Thursday that Cedar Lake and Schererville have yet to offer a counterproposal to the county's invitation to join the county's radio network.
"There has not been anything in writing, not a request, a demand, a compromise, (or) a counter," Bennett said.
Schererville Town Councilman Michael Troxell, who didn't attend, said afterward he hopes his town and Cedar Lake will have a draft interlocal agreement spelling out how the two towns can operate a separate radio network in cooperation with the county's E-911 service.
"It is being worked on right now. We are hopeful that within a week that we can have this. If not, then the first week in July. Then the county can look at it and say they can do it or no they can't. We are on top of it.
"Our attorney spoke with Nicole Bennett last week. We are working on those talking points, on the things we need as PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) 2 regarding the technology. Whatever access we currently have to the system that we want to continue to have. We are putting that in writing," Troxell said.
State law required Lake's county and municipal public safety dispatch centers to consolidate by Jan. 1, but physical and political problems have created delays.
County officials formed an E-911 network with the sheriff and 15 cities and towns on paper last year, but technical difficulties have held up moving them to a single county call center in Crown Point. Brian Hitchcock, county E-911 director, said Thursday that radio broadcast towers in Gary and south of St. John are now under construction.
Cedar Lake and Schererville town leaders have refused the county's invitation to join. They have formed a separate public safety answering point that is answering their own residents calls for police and fire service.
The Indiana attorney general said earlier the two PSAPs can co-exist, but both sides must sign a single agreement regulating joint finances and technology services. The state is denying Lake its share of public safety communications funding — $2.6 million a year — until agreement is reached.
The attorney general offered earlier to mediate the dispute and the two towns formally requested his help.
Bryan Corbin, spokesman for the attorney general, stated in an e-mail this week that no mediation is currently scheduled. "We have been in communication with both sides and have discussed with them how a mediation session could be structured to produce the best likelihood of finding common ground."
Troxell said, "We are working on the form of (an) agreement that will bind the PSAP 1 and PSAP 2 so we can work and continue doing the services in our respective communities, Schererville and Cedar Lake and the county can do theirs. We will work with the attorney general's office that the third agreement meets all the requirements of the state statute."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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