Wednesday, the leaders of Waterford, East Lyme and New London all signed an agreement approving a study to look into forming a regional dispatch center between the three municipalities, as well as signing a grant application to help fund the project.
“It appears obvious to us there will be savings,” New London Mayor Daryl Finizio said. “The big question is how much.”
The three municipalities will look to share one dispatch center, most likely the existing Waterford dispatch center, for all fire, police and emergency medical service calls. Per stipulation of the agreement signed Wednesday, the study will be completed and the results presented by July 1.
Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward, East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica and Finizio all said that while they expect this to result in savings, it is more about providing better service. Additionally, the three said that the State of Connecticut might mandate regionalization soon, so it would be better to do this now rather than deal with mandates later.
“Service is the primary driver here, not economics,” Steward said.
In 2012, Waterford and East Lyme tried to regionalize their dispatch services, although the union that represents the East Lyme dispatchers objected and the merger failed. Formica said dealing with labor will be a challenge, but Finizio said no one group should override what is best for all three communities.
"No interest group should ever have a veto power over good safety or good public policy," Finizio said.
There is also grant money available from the state if the three municipalities regionalize their dispatch center. According to a press release, the three municipalities could receive an initial $750,000 state grant for the cost associated with the merger, and then another that would give the three municipalities $215,000 a year to keep it going.
Right now, Waterford, East Lyme and New London employ 21 full-time dispatchers to run a dispatch center in each town, along with several part-time dispatchers to fill shifts. According to a report given to the press about the proposed regionalization, a report from a program endorsed by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials showed that only 20 full-time dispatchers would be needed for the three-municipality dispatch center.
The report recommended forming an LLC to oversee the dispatch center, with a governance board composed of members from all three municipalities ruling it. This is to “do away with the perception that one municipality is working for another,” according to the report.
The report recommends splitting the cost of running the dispatch center based off of the percentage of calls received per municipality each year. For example, if 1,000 calls are received in a year, and 230 of them are East Lyme calls, then East Lyme will pay for 23 percent of the cost of the dispatch center for that year, according to the report.
The report also suggests having all dispatchers use the same procedures and all dispatch-related computer systems in all three municipalities be standardized. However, New London police officers will still go to police calls in New London, East Lyme firefighters will still go to fires in East Lyme, and on and on.
Each municipality will have a project manager that will help conduct the study. New London will use Tammy Daugherty, an administrator in the mayor's office, Waterford will use Waterford Police Lt. Brett Mahoney and Formica said East Lyme is still deciding on who they will use.
The study will be completed and the results presented by July 1. Further action will be taken then, according to the municipal leaders.