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Who Will Answer Your 9-1-1 Call?

The fate of Ledyard Dispatch is uncertain as Mayor John Rodolico continues to evaluate out-of-town agencies to dispatch emergency services in Ledyard.

 

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.

The Opposition

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.

Kimlyn Marshall January 02, 2013 at 12:28 PM
I am a resident as well as a town employee who spends time in our dispatch center on a daily basis. As a resident I have had to call 9-1-1 3 times in the past few years. There was an accident near where I work and when I called I totally forgot the address in my panic. The dispatcher was knowledgable with the area and by landmarks had services on route before I hung up. My mother had an emergency while I was away. She called 9-1-1 and the dispatcher stayed on the phone talking with her until emergency services arrived. And they respond this way to everyone who calls. Will our Mill rate go down if dispatch is outsourced? What would the significant changes be if we outsourced our 9-1-1 dispatch center except we will lose that hands on knowledge of the people who work there. Most have been there over 10 years or more. I hope everyone that has had to call 9-1-1 will come to meetings and let the Mayor and Council know your feelings on this matter. When you call in an emergency WHO do YOU want to talk to?
Tina January 02, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Our current dispatchers are accurate and knowledgable of the area. I have NEVER had an issue with the current system.. Shouldn't he be looking to increase our tax revenue in this town? Fix our schools? Wasted time.
Liz Smith January 02, 2013 at 02:38 PM
What a complete waste of time to even consider this issue! I can not for the life of me understand that when we have a "vital resource" such as owning and controlling our own emergency response system, (and the funds that we have already used to set this up) that any politician would even waste time looking to outsourcing ANY of it!! As a lifelong resident and now taxpayer who is surviving on limited income and no medical beneifits I would NEVER support sending my money to another town to fund emergency service!! I feel it is essential that we do whatever it costs to keep our 9-1-1 services here! Don't think for one minute that handing control of this over to another already busy dispatch area will enhance emergency response! It doesn't work well now having the state dispatch our police! Too bad the residents don't know what REALLY goes on when the state prioritizes calls for service now!! Guess what, they typically answer their troopers first and the Ledyard Officer is advised to stand by frequently! Talk to any Ledyard Officer who would be glad to fill you in and give you examples. It's a poor system that we've been having to deal with due to failure of our town council to act and create an idependent police force. Let's move on THAT issue that we've been RESEARCHING, for god knows how many years, and leave the dispatch center alone!
Jeff Eilenberger January 02, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Oh my goodness .... Outsourcing the Dispatch Center is on the table again. I was involved with Ledyard Voluntary Emergency Squad as a first responder in the late eighties and early nineties and it was on the table back then. Will it save the Town money? Maybe short term. Will response times suffer along with the "Golden Hour" being compromised? Absolutely guaranteed, and when you are the one on the other end of an emergency call, those precious seconds feel like hours. When looking for savings in any budget, one looks for savings to impact ratio; this minor savings is not worth the major negative impact on Emergency services in Ledyard. Our dispatchers in Ledyard are the first contact an emergency caller has with the Ledyard Emergency Services; let's keep them part of our local Emergency Services System. Jeff Eilenberger 2 Village Drive Ledyard, CT 06339
Peace Maker January 02, 2013 at 03:28 PM
There are better segments of our local government that could be combined, downsized or out sourced. Take an active role as Groton has in advocating the dumping of the MER, would be a good start. How about combining primary schools. Make the school in Ledyard center into a business incubator. Sell outstanding ledyard commercially zoned owned property, by reducing the price asked each month till sold. Get rid of the "development committee". What have they done to reduce your taxes. Stop writing grants that require that we pay half and then have to maintain these "improvements" installed . At this point, in our fiscal crisis, grants increase Ledyards costs and we desperately need a reduction in our tax burden. How about reducing the work week at town hall to 3 days a week, with one weekend day included. Make all the town employees part time. Reduce overhead costs, and dump the unions. Smaller government expendatures are required to survive.
SCH January 02, 2013 at 03:33 PM
Unfortunately the State holds the purse strings and is placing financial pressure on the towns to consolidate. No, they don't pay for your dispatch services, but they provide equipment and some reimbursements for the center. Recent studies performed by the State of CT have indicated that there is no need to have so many dispatch centers and the State will no longer fund equipment upgrades in the future. Additionally, "regional" centers will get financial support from the State as an incentive for consolidating. Mr. Rodolico is putting the cart before the horse in looking to trim dispatch services. The town has been moving towards an independent police force for several years and needs to solve that issue first. It would not make much sense to farm out dispatch to an outside agency only to finally make the move to an independent police force in a couple of years and then have to hire back staff to dispatch police and maintain a staffed police station 24/7. Also be aware of the smoke and mirrors at Town Hall. Eliminating the $371K dispatch budget sounds great, however what is the cost to paying an outside agency to dispatch? The net savings may be minimal when all the chips fall. The potential savings to the town is only a fraction of a percentage of the overall town budget.
Fred Allyn, Jr. January 02, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Yes, it is an "old" question back on the table. And yes, Independent Police should have been dealt with when Councilor Holdridge presented the Communitym Services recommendation to the full Council about 3 years ago. That got "blocked" and never dealt with. Want to save money into the future? The Capital Budget 2-3 years ago had a line item of over $4million for a new Police Station. Why are we NOT considering the former Gales Ferry School (a portion of) to house a Police Station? It's For Sale for some $750,000. Renovations needed? Absolutely. A mere fraction of $4 million!
concerned citizen January 02, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Certain commitee members won't entertain a meeting with Ledyard Emergency officials because they "don't want to hear them whine" about why the town should stay with the wonderful service they already have. Its pretty sad that the first responders of the town are being allowed no input on a descision that chiefly affects their operations. You want to save the town money? Lets talk about several of the duplicate supervisory positions this mayor has implemented thus far that are of no use when functioning the way they are set up to.
Cindy Eilenberger January 02, 2013 at 06:33 PM
The biggest thing I find in the whole article that stood out to me was this line: "According to Rodolico, the town hasn't discussed the cost to outsource to Montville or Groton." How can you consider something that you haven't even discussed what the costs would be? Especially, since the only argument for implementing this is that it would save money. And if having an independent police force would change whether the dispatching needs to be outsourced or not then shouldn't it be put on hold till that decision is made? I would prefer that studies be made in response times, errors, dropped calls, etc between outsourced 911 systems and what we presently have. Can you show that it works better? As a resident I want to know if I have a true 911 emergency that I am going to get the fastest response time to address my issue. I don't want to be a guinea pig to test out a system whose success rate is undetermined. If implemented, I pray that the 13 dispatchers will not be jobless. This is the last thing the town needs is more people on the unemployment line, And sad that people who put themselves out there to protect the community would have to pay such a price in the name of progress. A lot to think about as a town and something I hope the town allows its residents to be a part of when making the decision.
Jeffrey Kulo January 03, 2013 at 04:03 AM
The mayor and town council are correct to investigate ways to reduce the cost of town government. Based on comparison to the other 168 towns in the state, expenditures for Ledyard town government have been high. This is based on data tabulated by State of Connecticut Office of Policy and Management and documented in a report by the Committee to Investigate the Town Manager Form of Government (for Ledyard) in 2011. In 2009 (latest available data for the 2011 report) Ledyard town government expenditure was $1163 per capita versus $1051 per capita for the median town in Connecticut. This means that if your Ledyard real estate tax was $5,000, for instance, you probably paid several hundred dollars more than if you lived in the median town, or a town that spent less than the median. There are reasons why Ledyard should not be spending more than the median, but instead should be spending less. How to make change is clearly difficult and contentious. Partly due to past fiscal performance, and partly to facilitate any necessary changes, the 2011 investigation committee recommendation to the town council was to change Ledyard's form of government from Mayor/Council to Council/Manager.
concerned citizen January 03, 2013 at 05:29 PM
Making quick and arbitrary descisions based on what the mayor THINKS he is going to save is not the answer. Farm out our dispatch to another town and when they raise the costs on us in several years don't say you weren't warned. Its happened in several other towns, whats to say it would not in Ledyard? You cannot put a price on someone answering your 911 call that knows the area and often knows many of the citizens who call for help. Its also interesting that the mayor and council have asked for NO input from Preston.... Its not like they pay Ledyard for dispatching services or anything.... It seems the mayor and council have their own agenda and have no regard for the emergency services of Ledyard or Preston.
Reality Check January 03, 2013 at 06:52 PM
part 1: Residents of Ledyard, please pay attention to the following facts: A subcommittee within the Ledyard Public Safety Commission was created to look into outsourcing Ledyard’s dispatch center. This was done supposedly “to put this matter to bed” after years of discussion and lack of hard facts to know if it would even be beneficial. The Ledyard agencies that use the dispatch center include the Ledyard Fire Company, Gales Ferry Fire Company, Ledyard Volunteer Emergency Squad (Ambulance) and Ledyard Police. In addition to Ledyard agencies, Preston and Poquetanuck Fire Companies use, and pay for, dispatch service through our center.
Reality Check January 03, 2013 at 06:52 PM
part 2: Despite the presence of the heads of each of these agencies on the Public Safety Commission, none of them serve on this “subcommittee.” The two Fire Chiefs, Ambulance Director and Police Administration are not involved in looking to outsource dispatch. The two Fire Chiefs and Ambulance Director have asked to provide input regarding this potential huge change in service. And it is true, at a full Public Safety Commission meeting recently, when the Ambulance Director asked the Chairman to give input into this process, he was told that the subcommittee did not want to hear the heads of the town services “whine.” The members of this subcommittee include the Civil Defense Director, Administrator of Emergency Services and Mayor. No one looking to outsource our 911 and Dispatch center are directly involved in emergency service operations within the Town of Ledyard or are daily users of the services the center provides!
Reality Check January 03, 2013 at 06:52 PM
part 3: This is a political game, using the Mayor’s hand-picked people, to accomplish the following: 1. Eliminate the talk for an independent Police Department. (separate from the State Police) 2. Eliminate the need for a new Police Station. 3. The Mayor still gets to look good by saying that a new police station is needed and would include a new dispatch center (even though he is killing the project before it even happens). There are other ways to eliminate excess spending within the Town of Ledyard other than cutting a branch of the Emergency Services. Does anyone know why we are still paying to run two libraries? Has anyone looked at Parks and Rec budget that exceeds the cost to run dispatch? Does anyone know why we hired an Administrator of Emergency Services to oversee departments that already have competent VOLUNTEER department heads? Does anyone know why we are still paying the State of Connecticut for a resident State Trooper and dispatch services from Troop E when our own force has a Lieutenant that outranks the Sergeant Trooper that they provide us and a dispatch center that handles our police business? Open your eyes and don’t let political games and hand-picked people run their own agendas! Remember, all of these meetings are public and I urge you all to attend!
Cindy Eilenberger January 04, 2013 at 05:41 PM
Very enlightening. And also very troubling that the agencies that this is going to affect are not allowed input, and that their input is considered a "whine". Would the residents be given the same respect if they requested to give input? I recommend to those that do wish to offer input to do some homework before they voice their opinions if they want those opinions to be taken with any credence. If the committee turns a deaf ear to factual information that could aid in coming to a decision on this one way or the other then there needs need to be a hard look into the agenda of the committee.
Alex Richards January 08, 2013 at 03:50 AM
$346K out of a 49 Million $ budget is less then 1%. who would move here when they hear that the town sacrificed our health and safety and property for fractions of a penny on the dollar? For the love of god, do your job and find a way to attract money to the town instead of chopping away at basic services!
Maze Stephan January 09, 2013 at 03:13 AM
The majority of Ledyard Dispatchers are volunteer EMT's, volunteer fire fighters, and instructors for EMT's, EMR's and train fire fighters in Ledyard. Some are trained in Haz-Mat and are certified Emergency Management thru FEMA. Plus they have the certifications required to be an Emergency Dispatcher. There is too much talent to risk losing! Take away their jobs and I wonder if any of them would still volunteer in Ledyard? Does the Mayor have his own volunteer resume to share?
Liz Smith January 26, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Sounds like most of us who commented, taxpayers and voters, are against losing our dispatch center so..game on, I plan to fight this with all I can. Anyone want to help?
Ruby York February 20, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Thank You Liz !

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