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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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