In the past few weeks, to merge Waterford's and East Lyme’s dispatch center. Wayne Meyers, the chief negotiator for the East Lyme dispatch’s union, said East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica “took long-term employees and threw them under the bus.”
In an interview with Patch Friday, Formica responded to that statement and said the agreement is still months away from being finalized. He also said that the three dispatchers in East Lyme should have no problem retaining their jobs in Waterford.
“I expect they would get first choice to the jobs,” Formica said. “We have a very high quality group of dispatchers and I see no problem with them passing the testing (and getting hired).”
The Root of the Issue
, Waterford and East Lyme are looking to merge their dispatch centers. East Lyme would end its dispatch services, and Waterford would hire four more dispatchers and cover both towns.
East Lyme has three full-time dispatchers. Those three dispatchers would have their positions terminated, and then they would have to apply to Waterford to continue to work.
East Lyme’s dispatchers' union argued against that. They want the jobs to be guaranteed, , according to Meyers.
Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward has refused to guarantee those jobs, saying the dispatchers should have to pass Waterford’s employment test for dispatchers. Formica said the dispatchers should have no problem passing the test, as they’ve been dispatchers for years, and expects they will get first priority to be hired.
“I expect they get first right,” Formica said.
Benefit To East Lyme
Formica said East Lyme would save roughly $135,000 by merging with Waterford, because it no longer would have to spend money on part-time dispatchers. Additionally, the town is eligible for more grant money from the state, he said.
However, Formica said it is important that the public safety of East Lyme residents is not compromised with this agreement. He formed a committee of East Lyme fire chiefs and emergency personnel to look into the agreement, and if they deem it will jeopardize the safety of East Lyme residents, Formica said East Lyme will have to adjust the agreement.
“Public safety is not about saving money,” Formica said. “It has to be exactly the same service or better.”
Formica also said the agreement is months away from being finalized, and was concerned it was made public so soon. He is still awaiting the results of his committee to see if public safety will be compromised, and has to ensure state grant money is still coming through.
“There is no agreement,” Formica said about the proposed agreement the Waterford Board of Selectmen already approved. "That is just a draft document that we are in discussions about.”
East Lyme would get a $250,000 state grant to do the merger, which the town would need to buy new radios and other technology to be compatible to Waterford’s system, he said. Formica said he would like to watch the state to ensure that money is still coming through, and if not, the agreement might have to be altered.
Formica also said he would not shut down the East Lyme dispatch center if the deal went through, even though it would be empty. It would remain in case there is an emergency, such as another , he said.
But overall, while the specifics are still being worked out, the idea of regionalizing dispatch is a good one, Formica said.
“A singular unit is something we all need to look at,” he said. “It seems to be a natural way to save some money.”