‘A major achievement’: Lake County Board to consider 911 consolidation agreements

‘A major achievement’: Lake County Board to consider 911 consolidation agreements

A regional consolidation of 911 dispatch and emergency services is moving forward after two intergovernmental agreements were approved by Lake County Board committees this week.

The two agreements between the county and municipal partners agency establish LakeComm, a consolidated 911 dispatch center, and the Joint Emergency Telephone System Board (JETSB) for local emergency authorities, bringing together dozens of local law enforcement and fire agencies at the $53.8 million Regional Operations and Communications (ROC) Facility in Libertyville.

The contracts were approved by the Lake County Board’s Law and Judicial (L&J) Committee Tuesday and the Finance and Administration Committee on Thursday. Approval of the agreements is the first step to form the new governing bodies.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office will not be a part of the consolidation due to concerns over the contracts providing sufficient resources for the sheriff’s additional statutory responsibilities, Sheriff John Idleburg said during the L&J meeting.

The two IGAs will go before the full Lake County Board for approval in June. If approved, it’s anticipated the new LakeComm services will be operational by July 2025, County Administrator Patrice Sutton said at the Tuesday committee meeting.

“(This) represents a major achievement for Lake County as a government entity, as well as a regional leader,” Sutton said. “It is an initiative that directly impacts our residents, business owners and visitors, and has involved unprecedented cooperation and collaboration among multiple villages, cities and districts, among Lake County.”

For more than seven years, Lake County has been working towards a regional 911 consolidation in an effort to eliminate call transfers and improve response times, said Sutton, who has worked on consolidation efforts from both the municipal and county perspectives.

Regional consolidation has been influenced by Illinois law which directs a county with a population of at least 250,000 and more than one ETSB to consolidate so that no local 911 authority serves a population of less than 25,000 residents.

According to Sutton, the consolidation will provide emergency services for about 500,000 of the 700,000 residents in Lake County.

The second IGA initiates the process to establish a joint Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB) from a number of local ETSBs. An ETSB receives 911 surcharge funds and is an oversight board responsible for managing the operational aspects of the 911 system. A new joint ETSB requires final approval from the Illinois 911 administrator.

“This has really been a long process because it is a true partnership,” Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart, D-Lake Bluff, said. “Just through these actions today, and over the next couple of months, we will be decreasing by five units of government through this consolidation.”

The LakeComm IGA will also establish a long-term lease for dedicated space for the new agency in the ROC facility. The clause stipulates that the leased space cannot be occupied, transferred or sublet without the express written consent of both the lessor (Lake County) and the tenant (LakeComm).

Related Articles

Lake County News-Sun |

Lake County leads multi-city 911 dispatch consolidation into next stages; Sheriff’s Office to remain separate due to logistical concerns

Lake County News-Sun |

Construction begins on Lake County emergency services communications center; ‘When the need … arises, it will (reduce) the response time’

Sutton said the consolidation provides benefits such as improved resource coordination, and the depth of staffing will better accommodate surges in call volume or multiple simultaneous major incidents.

Consolidating investments such as facilities, equipment and systems into fewer centers also results in more “cost-effective financial outcomes,” Sutton said.

Additional costs to the county for LakeComm will be determined in the near future, once the LakeComm Board is established, according to county officials.

Fiscal topics that have been broached with county committees since November 2023, but not presented for action, include: the county (or other members) providing shared services (fiduciary, payroll, contracting, et cetera) during the transition period, the county (or other members) providing a loan to LakeComm to be used for start-up/transition expenses and the long-term lease and rent schedule for the dedicated space in the ROC facility.

Sheriff still concerned

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office reiterated concerns over the current agreements during the L&J meeting. Idleburg said the agreement does not address the sheriff’s statutory responsibilities, and is therefore preventing the sheriff’s office from joining the consolidation effort.

“I understand that this board has to make a decision which is in the best interest of the county, but also think it needs to understand that the top law enforcement officer for the county has some issues with this current IGA the way it is written,” Idleburg said. “Right now, the way it’s written, this is not in the best interest of this county, or the best interest of public safety for the county.”

Idleburg said that while he has “deep concerns” moving forward, he is willing to sit down with the county and partner agencies to figure out how to move forward.

Lake County Board member Carissa Casbon, D-Gurnee, made a motion at the L&J meeting to postpone the vote so county staff can work with the sheriff’s office to make the agreements contingent on the sheriff joining the ROC facility’s operations. The motion was eventually killed on the floor before a vote could be taken.

“My problems with the IGA are the following: It requires Lake County to extend itself too far financially and risk too much without any guarantee of the sheriff’s office ever being in the building, which is our own operations. This goes against the responsibility portion of our strategic plan,” Casbon said. “The economies of scale are not fully realized. Our unincorporated areas and contract areas covered by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office are not covered in this IGA.”

Casbon ultimately abstained from the L&J vote for the intergovernmental agreements due to concern over services for unincorporated residents, and because the board member still had outstanding questions about the consolidation.

Kildeer Chief Village Officer Michael Talbett also requested the L&J committee postpone its consideration of the IGAs during public comment, due to concerns over some of the bylaws that dictate withdrawal procedures. He made his remarks on behalf of Kildeer, Hawthorn Woods, Libertyville, Park City, Wauconda, Tower Lakes and Winthrop Harbor.

“These things are very important to us, because they give us pause in making a commitment right now, because we need a little bit more time to really study the impact of these things on our municipalities,” Talbett said. “The cumulative effect of them could be that our membership may not be sustainable.”

Any governmental entity in the county is eligible to join LakeComm, according to the IGA. Those that join after July 1 will need to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the LakeComm member board. However, the IGA states the Sheriff’s Office will be granted membership to LakeComm upon written request.

Founding members for LakeComm include Lake County, the Village of Antioch, the First Fire Protection District (FPD) of Antioch, Countryside FPD, Fox Lake FPD, Village of Gurnee, Greater Round Lake FPD, Lake Villa FPD, Village of Lake Zurich, Village of Mundelein, City of North Chicago, Village of Round Lake, Village of Round Lake Beach, Village of Round Lake Heights, Village of Round Lake Park, Village of Vernon Hills and Wauconda FPD.

Chief for the Greater Round Lake FPD Greg Formica and North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham Jr. spoke during public comment Tuesday offering support for moving the project forward, and said the consolidation would improve emergency services provided to residents.

“We worked really hard to come together to try and solve the problem … of reducing the call transfers for 911,” Formica said. “ We think that, in the end, it’s going to be a great facility, and it’s going to greatly improve the way that services are provided to the citizens of Lake County.”