State dispatch center consolidation hinders local operation

Shelburne Public Safety Answering Dispatch Center Administrator James Mack at his post in Shelburne on July 15.
Shelburne Public Safety Answering Dispatch Center Administrator James Mack at his post in Shelburne on July 15.

Some changes are coming to Shelburne Communications Center, also known as 9-1-1, or the public safety answering dispatch center for multiple police, fire and EMS agencies in Chittenden and Addison Counties. The state’s dispatch centers will be consolidated from four to two, leaving Vermont with six – two state and four municipal. Shelburne’s center is already experiencing a higher influx of calls as a result.

The 9-1-1 dispatch centers in Rutland and Derby are being consolidated with Rockingham and Williston. This change is estimated to save the state approximately $1.7 million, said James Reardon, Vermont Department of Finance and Management Commissioner.

In this age of states struggling to balance budgets, it makes sense to look internally to find ways to save money, Reardon said. Remaining centers will still be able to carry out the mission and there should not be a disruption of services, he said.

Shelburne Town Manager Joe Colangelo said he expects Shelburne will see an increase in 9-1-1 rollover calls. Shelburne’s dispatch center already answers calls from 18 communities and dispatches for 23 agencies in 22 communities. New Active911 software has been purchased to allow emergency information to be uploaded straight to an application that firefighters and responders can access from their smart devices. “All of this is to get people there faster with more information

Mack said the changeover is already having an impact on the Shelburne center. He is seeing an increase in rollover calls coming from the Derby and Rutland regions. “I think it’s a terrible mistake,” Mack said of the dispatch center consolidations.

The issue came up at the June 23 Shelburne Selectboard meeting at which members voted to adopt a policy statement regarding state funding for the town’s dispatch center. In that statement, it was requested that the state increase compensation “by a sensible amount” for an increase in rollover calls.

At that meeting, board member Colleen Parker said she believes the consolidation is unsafe. Parker, a doctor, voiced concern over the potential for increased morbidity and mortality in the state due to the change.

Mack said with the announcement of the closures, some dispatchers from the Derby location have already left for other jobs. This means that there are already fewer people available to take calls.

“In the 9-1-1 world, we prefer them to never get the automated message,” Mack said.

The consolidation of the state-run public safety answering dispatch centers is expected to be complete in September.

 

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