Mayor John Rodolico said the Town of Ledyard has been talking about regionalizing its dispatch center for more than 20 years and public safety officials from seven nearby dispatch centers met Monday to take all that talk to the next level.
In May, Rodolico formally invited some Connecticut agencies to submit their qualifications and potentially bid on a contract to dispatch emergency services for the Town of Ledyard. On Monday, dispatch centers in Ledyard, Montville, Groton, Stonington, Waterford, Mashantucket, and Quinebaug Valley attended a special meeting with the mayor and the public safety committee to ask questions about the proposal process.
"We're in the early phases of designing a new police station and obviously we need to know what we're doing with our dispatch center," said Rodolico to a room crowded with police officers and emergency management officials.
Currently the Ledyard Police Department has an in-house dispatch center that staffs the station 24/7. Rodolico and Town Council want to see if the town can save the town money by contracting out those services.
The fear is that if Ledyard moves to a regionalized dispatch center, it could result in redundancy and delay, which could impact officer and public safety. But, Ledyard Police Lt. Michael Finkelstein said that it would be difficult to determine the impact on Ledyard police services before evaluating the proposals individually.
Right now, a 9-1-1 call from Ledyard residents goes directly to the Ledyard police department and officers are dispatched from there before and/or while the call is transferred to Connecticut State Police Troop E in Montville. If Ledyard moves to a regional dispatch center, a 9-1-1 call would go to the outside agency, which would transfer the call to Troop E who would then dispatch Ledyard officers.
Troop E dispatches police for nine towns, including Ledyard, already. The requirements stated in the RFQ say that "answering 9-1-1 calls and transferring them to another service to dispatch is not considered experience…"
Sean McGuckin, who chairs the public safety committee, told the room, "we do realize there's a difference between dispatching a police department and dispatching a fire department."
Ledyard dispatch took 7,727 9-1-1 calls in 2011, according to town documents. They dispatched 9,892 calls for service for police, 822 for Ledyard Ambulance, 1,164 for the fire departments. They also answered more than 53,000 routine calls to the police station.
Dispatchers said that familiarity with the town roads and residents are additional benefits of an internal dispatch center. Houses with medical issues and/or a history with the police department are flagged and dispatchers notify responding officers of potential issues.
Ledyard Police Lt. Michael Finkelstein said the police department and dispatch center have a good working relationship.
"We own it and we have it serve the police department in the way that we need it to," he said and that contracting with another agency "could make that more difficult."
McGuckin said that there have been "no complaints on the level of service" about Ledyard's dispatch center.
Ledyard employs six full-time dispatchers and eight part-time dispatchers and they occupy the police station 24 hours a day, seven days a week while officers are patrolling the roads. Previous discussions among town councilors have speculated about the risks and common sense of having an empty police station, or added police shifts, if the dispatch is eliminated.
This year's amended budget for the dispatch center is $346,264, next year's approved budget for the dispatch center is $371,363.
Rodolico said that ideally the new agency would take over Jan. 1, 2013 but July 1, 2013 is more likely.