In an effort to save some money, Mayor John Rodolico and a sub committee of the Public Safety Commission continue to review qualifications of emergency dispatch centers to replace the in-town service currently in place. The mayor requested qualifications from interested agencies and Montville, Groton Town and Ledyard Dispatch are the three finalists.
The question is whether or not it’s more cost effective to service to another town. Currently, the dispatch center is located inside the Ledyard Police Station and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Sean McGuckin, chair of the public safety committee, said he has met with emergency services dispatched by Groton and Montville for feedback. McGuckin says keeping two agencies in the running creates a certain amount of leverage and has not requested input from Ledyard services.
LVES Director Jacob Troy and Gales Ferry Volunteer Fire Company Chief Anthony Saccone both voiced concern with not being asked for input during the last Public Safety Commission meeting and asked to be “kept in the loop” about the decision.
Opponents of the move, such as the majority of the town’s first responders, say that there may be a slower response time, since 9-1-1 and routine calls would be re-routed out of town to a center that may not be familiar with patrol areas and fire response districts.
“We have an outstanding service,” said Saccone, of the Ledyard dispatchers. Many of whom are also volunteers in the fire and ambulance services, which give them keen insight of the systems in place, issues that impact emergency service in Ledyard and an elevated sense of a caller’s need.
The town’s first responders say they have a system in place that works well. They say the dispatchers are familiar with problem residences and are able to alert emergency responders prior to their arrival. And, They are able to request and give directions to out of town services when needed.
As it stands right now non-emergency and 9-1-1 calls come into the LPD dispatch. Officers are dispatched immediately to priority calls (9-1-1 and the like) then transferred over to the Connecticut State Police, Troop E in Montville (CSP-E), where the officers are dispatched once again. While the process appears to be redundant (a consequence of the Resident State Trooper program) Ledyard emergency services are already on their way.
A new agency, with a greater call volume will dispatch fire and EMS directly but will likely transfer police calls to CSP-E to dispatch before doing so directly.
Callers and dispatchers alike often find long wait times and dropped calls on the CSP-E emergency line, especially when there are major incidences such as accidents and inclement weather throughout Troop E’s jurisdiction, such as I-395 and I-95. Consequently, routine calls are generally fielded at the Ledyard level and the CSP-E is notified in a timely manner.
Delays in services may be compounded when several state police barracks and dispatch centers, including Troop E, are consolidated and relocated to Tolland this spring.
“Unfortunately we have not been informed of any details related to the consolidation, or how it may effect our operations,” said Ledyard Police Lt. Michael Finkelstein. “Ultimately any changes will (have) an effect, but until the details are presented we will not know completely.”
On top of 9-1-1 calls, dispatchers (who staff the building 24-hours a day) field non-emergency questions for directions, to dog complaints, to what roads are closed and if people can burn, etc. They are there to receive complaints and reports and are able to open the doors to the police station in emergency situations as well as address other needs like receiving protective and restraining orders filed with the police station.
If the Ledyard dispatch center is eliminated, those options would be limited to administrative office hours and by chance that police officers are in the station after-hours instead of on the road or at a call.
Those in favor...
Proponents of the move say it will save some money by eliminating the line-item budget of the dispatch and those positions. There are 13 full and part time dispatchers to staff the 24-hour service. The issue has been on the table long before the current administration although previous representatives chose not to go forward with the idea.
Dispatch cost the town $371,363 this year, but Ledyard receives $25,000 from the Town of Preston and some reimbursement from the State of Connecticut.
According to Rodolico, the town hasn't discussed the cost to outsource to Montville or Groton.
“Montville’s an infant,” said McGuckin. “We’d be able to influence that and drive the procedural part.” The Montville Public Safety Facility is expected to open this month and have stated that among other things, they would consider hiring Ledyard dispatchers if they were chosen.
According to Joe Sastre, director of Emergency Management in Groton, they have enough staff to take on Ledyard’s emergency needs.
According to the Norwich Bulletin, Ledyard officials will meet with the Office of Statewide Emergency Telecommunications, which oversees Connecticut 911 services, in early January to assess the cost and regulatory landscape. The report says, “Ledyard leaders are trying to pin down what financial incentives the state will provide if the town moves into a regional dispatch arrangement with Montville or Groton,” although Ledyard is already in a regional arrangement with Preston.