The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has pulled out of an agreement to be part of the new consolidated 911 dispatch center for Lake County that is under construction, saying they have “significant concerns.”
Crews began construction last summer on the 37,000-square-foot 911 dispatch facility in Libertyville, which will consolidate services and aim to allow Lake County first responders to respond quicker.
The 37,426-square-foot facility, termed the Regional Operations and Communications (ROC), is being built next to the Lake County Central Permit Facility near Winchester Road and Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville.
The facility will house consolidated Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP), the County’s Emergency Management Agency and supporting staff and technologies.
Many towns in Lake County will house their 911 dispatchers at the building.
As of last year, those participating PSAPs included CenCom E9-1-1, FoxComm, Gurnee, Lake Zurich, Mundelein, Vernon Hills, Waukegan and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg withdrew the sheriff’s office from the consolidation in November. Last month, Waukegan also withdrew from the consolidation agreement.
Idleburg sent a letter, obtained by Lake and McHenry County Scanner, to the Lake County Board explaining the decision.
Idleburg said he was not opposed to dispatch consolidation but said the current plan appears to be beneficial for smaller law enforcement and fire agencies.
“The presented plan is not at all ideal for a large organization, such as the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, which is why I continue to have significant concerns,” the sheriff said.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said the decision was made after an exhaustive cost-benefit analysis.
A “litany” of concerns and questions also went unanswered over recent years, Covelli said.
“It was very clear to us, by proceeding with consolidation, the Lake County residents we serve would suffer a significant loss of services,” Covelli told Lake and McHenry County Scanner.
The sheriff’s office determined they would be required to hire additional staff to take on responsibilities that are already being handled by their dispatch center
“The increased costs, decreased levels of service, not receiving answers to important questions, and being asked to sign a multi-year intergovernmental agreement that did not outline operational and cost specifics, ultimately led Sheriff Idleburg to do what was in the best interest of the people we serve, and continue maintaining our current dispatch services,” Covelli said.
“Sheriff Idleburg did not feel it fiscally prudent, operationally prudent, or in the best interest of the community to agree to a long-term commitment without the most fundamental and important aspects being fleshed out, among our other concerns. One wouldn’t run a household budget like that, and the same should apply with taxpayer money,” he added.
Idleburg said in his letter that a final report with recommendations on the consolidation, authored by a nationwide firm, failed to take into consideration the concerns that the sheriff’s office presented.
“[…] as the plan stands, the sheriff’s office will lose a significant amount of our current operations and services we provide to the Lake County community,” Idleburg said.
The sheriff also called out then-County Administrator Gary Gibson and Deputy County Administrator Jim Hawkins for failing to keep the county board informed.
“Mr. Hawkins had the duty and obligation to keep you informed. His role has been to keep you in the loop on the actual facts, and this includes potential hurdles or challenges the project is facing. The mistake I made throughout this process was trusting him to relay accurate information about the ongoing concerns of the sheriff’s office to the entire Lake County Board. Clearly, our concerns have not been expressed to this Board,” Idleburg said to county board members in the letter.
Officials said in July that the new facility will bring together highly trained experts and state-of-the-art technology to coordinate resources, information and emergency communications and management under one roof.
“The Regional Operations and Communications (ROC) Facility is a critically important infrastructure project that will enable our first responders – law enforcement, fire, EMS, and dispatch – to respond more quickly to emergency events across Lake County and the region,” Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart said during a groundbreaking event last year.
“The ROC Facility will be a model of excellence and will bring greater coordination and collaboration between the vital agencies who are dedicated to serving our Lake County residents,” Hart said.
Funding for the facility comes from a $1 million grant obtained by U.S. Congressman Brad Schneider, $2 million from the Illinois Clean Energy Communities Foundation Grant, $5 million from Lake County Emergency Telephone System Board commitment, $30 million from the Lake County General Obligation Bond approved by the Lake County Board and additional funding contributed through Lake County’s Capitol program and the American Rescue Plan Act.
The new facility encountered a delay soon after construction began. Crews paused construction after learning the site was covered in silt, which required approximately $400,000 to be spent to correct the issue.
Construction was initially projected to be complete by December 2024 and the facility was scheduled to open in 2025. It is unclear if the timeline remains the same.