Porter County Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, announced at
Tuesday’s meeting that current E911 Director Dave Sheibels has been
asked—and has agreed—to serve as interim E911 director until a replacement
has been found.
Evans said the Commissioners have met with Sheibels twice and this move was
the outcome of those meetings. Evans would not term the action a demotion
nor would he say that Sheibels is stepping down. Sheibels “has agreed to
become the interim director until a replacement is found,” Evans said
Evans had previously promised that a consultant’s report critical of the
County’s E911 center would be acted on. “We are doing something,” he said.
“The report is not going to just sit on the shelf.”
Evans added that he did not know where Sheibels would work after a new
director is hired. One possibility discussed is Sheibels’ taking a position
with the Porter County Sheriff’s Police as a communication and computer
system specialist. Evans did voice his praise for Sheibels’ work in making
the E911 center a success.
The E911 center handles 155,000 calls annually.
“We don’t even know how difficult finding his replacement will be, or if one
exists with his experience,” Evans said.
In 1994, while employed as a Valparaiso Police Officer, Sheibels digitized
and organized the department’s records and files and was named “Officer of
the Year” by the Fraternal Order of Police, an honor usually only given to
officers for an act of heroism or bravery.
Meanwhile, Evans read REM Management Service’s response to published
criticisms of its work for the Commissioner evaluating the E911 center. In
an e-mail REM Service Principle Daniel McDevitt, himself with many years
experience as a police officer, suggested that some have accused his group
of “cronyism” in getting the county’s contract. McDevitt’s response: “No one
from the county that works in public safety ever worked for or with REM.”
And McDevitt cited examples of his coming to Porter County to perform police
duties or help investigate crimes.
Read aloud at the meeting, the e-mail also responded to suggestions that
McDevitt spent time on the golf course with county officials, resulting in
work for his firm. McDevitt’s response: “I do not play golf. I tried it once
and was not very good and have not played it since.”
Sheibels’ has said that REM’s findings and recommended changes were based
not on fact or observation but rather on “hearsay,” that he feels the
consultants did not spend enough time observing the center’s day-to-day
operations, and that they were too quick to believe reports that he did not
respond to complaints or problems.
The consultants, for their part, have said that they interviewed police and
fire chiefs in the surrounding areas and that these officials no longer file
complaints because he (Sheibels) ignores them.
Sheibels has said that these allegations do not accurately portray him and
that these same officials have not always been patient in waiting for his
response or corrective actions.
“It’s disheartening to have the integrity of the consultants and their
report being questioned,” Evans said. “We believe in them (REM) and their
work. It was an unbiased project.”
A consultant group has been retained to recruit, select, and interview
applicants for the E911 Director position and to recommend the best
candidates. The Commissioners approved an expenditure of $5,000 for this
In other business, the Commissioners awarded Barb Young, director of the
Porter County Community Foundation, $5,000 to help fund a study on the
area's homeless population and to assess their needs. The total cost of the
study is expected to be over $31,000.
And the Commissioner approved an expenditure of $150,000, requested by Linda
Woloshansky, director of Workforce Innovations, for continued work in the
field of Adult Education. One of several sites to benefit from the funds is
Chesterton’s Adult Learning Center at the Westchester Library Service
Center, where 65 adult learners participate. In addition to teaching GED
coursework, the area learning centers also help students develop skills
desired by future employers through further education.
The Commissioners will next meet at 2 p.m., Tuesday, May 3, at the Porter
County Administration Building ,155 Indiana Ave. in Valparaiso.
At Tuesday’s Porter County Commissioners meeting, a motion was approved to
immediately establish a “Rainy Day Fund” in the amount of $4.25 million to
supplement the County's E911 Center budget for 2011 and 2012.
Before introducing the ordinance that would create the fund, Commission
President John Evans, R-North, explained that the current shortfall can be
traced back to yjr bankruptcy of Bethlehem Steel Company, whose property-tax
bill had represented a significant portion of the county's budget.
Bethlehem’s inability to pay the tax bill hit the E911 budget especially
hard and Evans said that it’s been a constant uphill battle to catch up
In addition, Evans said needed technological updates and additional
personnel added to the shortfall. “We had to keep up with advances in
technology and that alone has increased the center’s expenses by $1.4
million,” he said.
An outside consulting firm has recommended that an additional eight to 10
E911 dispatchers be added to meet increasing service demands. Evans
suggested that in the future the Commissioners may have the Social Security
and benefit costs of all the E911 dispatchers financed through the board’s
As for additional funding sources, Evans said that he is going to urge the
Porter County Council to increase E911 fees paid by both county landline and
wireless customers. Currently these fees respectively are $1.50 and 50
cents. Since wireless E911 fees are controlled by the state, the county can
only request that an increase be considered. However the County Council does
have jurisdiction over E911 charges paid by landline users, and Evans
recommended that the County Council approve increasing the current fee from
$1.50 to $2.000. He would also like to see the Council ask the state to
increase the wireless surcharge by 25 cents.
Nationwide studies have found that an increasing number of phone customers
are switching from landline to wireless service. Currently Indiana wireless
users are being charged 50 cents for E911 service. With many county and
local governments seeing a resulting decline in funds because of this trend,
many are recommending an increase in wireless E911 charges. Phone users who
have computer or VOIP (Voice Over Internet Phone) connections pay the same
amount as landline customers.
Customers who have both landline and wireless phone are already paying a
total of $2 for E911 coverage.
The Porter County Council is expected to review and act on the increase at
its next meeting, 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 29, at Porter County
Administration Office, 155 Indiana Ave. in Valparaiso.