Chesterton Tribune



County council wants new 911 director to "buy in" to Porter County

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The County Council debated offering a higher salary to a new County 911 Director and weighed the pros and cons of the new Director commuting from Illinois at its meeting Tuesday.

The Council ultimately split-voted 4-3 to approve raising the salary for the position from approximately $75,000 to approximately $93,000, which is more attractive to top candidates in the industry, according to County Attorney Scott McClure. Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-Large, and members Sylvia Graham, D-At-Large, and Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, objected.

Current 911 Director Rob Lanchsweerdt recently submitted his resignation effective Sept. 13. Lanchsweerdt came from the South Bend Police Department and said he resigned to return to law enforcement.

Lanchsweerdt, along with EMA Director Lance Bella were under the purview of the County Public Safety Director before Mike Brickner resigned after 16 months in that position in January. McClure said the Commissioners are funding the raise to the new 911 Director in part by dissolving the vacant Public Safety Director position, which offered a salary of approximately $97,500. The changes will not affect EMA.

Though Whitten said he understands 911 is “an employee’s market” right now, he’s concerned that the Commissioners have a candidate in mind who lives in Illinois and would commute 50 minutes one way. McClure said the candidate hasn’t ruled out the possibility of moving, but also won’t agree to a timeline for moving to Porter County. Whitten said 50 minutes is a long time in an emergency.

“I have great concerns about the director of our 911 directing 911 from out of state. Maybe circumstances dictate that we have no other choice, but I still have great concerns,” Whitten said. Graham said she thinks a candidate who won’t move here isn’t “buying-in” to the County.

Council member Bob Poparad, D-1st, was skeptical of those concerns since the County has had five 911 Directors in 10 years. “I don’t know if it’s very realistic for somebody to pull up roots for something where the average job expectancy is two years,” Poparad said.

Rivas said he was uncomfortable with someone unfamiliar with Porter County directing 911. Rivas also asked if there was interest from within 911, and said he didn’t buy that none of the dispatchers, many of whom are women and all of whom know Porter County well, are qualified for the job. Graham agreed.

McClure reported there were at least two internal applicants, but suggested the turnover in Directors has resulted in a lack mentorship that would prepare any dispatchers for such a move up. The candidate in mind is a former 911 Director and was the top candidate in a national search, he said.

Council Member Mike Jessen, R-4th, said the new Director being available at all times was more important to him than where the candidate’s home base is. However, Jessen was also concerned that the Commissioners didn’t conduct a new search and instead relied on the candidate pool from last time. Council member Greg Simms, D-3rd, was unconcerned with the candidate living out-of-state since many people commute to Chicago from Porter County.

Lanchsweerdt has been commuting from South Bend and only working in Porter County four days a week, and the 911 Director should be here five-days a week and able to get here fast in an emergency, according to the Council.

McClure said the Commissioners have laid out those expectations and will hold the new candidate accountable.




Posted 9/3/2019




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