Town manager discusses town meeting vote on regional dispatch

by Joe Colangelo

Article VII on the Town Meeting Warning asks voters to consider authorizing Shelburne’s ability to enter into an agreement for the formation of a union municipal district referred to as the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority for the purpose of providing regional emergency dispatch.

This “Agreement” is equivalent to a municipal charter except it does not require approval from the legislature because union municipal districts have been pre-authorized by the state legislature as a mechanism to deliver public services regionally via shared governance. Other examples of union municipal districts include the Champlain Water District, Green Mountain Transit, and the Chittenden County Solid Waste District.

The Agreement to Create the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority was developed by a joint-survey committee and approved by Vermont’s Attorney General. Along with Shelburne’s Selectboard, the governing bodies of Burlington, Colchester, Milton, South Burlington, Williston, and Winooski have placed this article on their Town Meeting Warning(s).

If voters authorize Shelburne’s participation in the CCPSA at Town Meeting, this only provides Shelburne membership on the governing body of this new entity. A subsequent vote by the Shelburne Selectboard will be required if Shelburne ultimately decides to pay for and receive services from the CCPSA. It is anticipated that the decision to join the CCPSA by paying for and receiving its services is between 12 and 24 months in the future.

Voting yes on Article VII secures Shelburne’s involvement as a decision-maker over the next 12-24 months while the CCPSA develops its operational plan. If there is any chance that Shelburne might want to pay for and receive services from the CCPSA in the future, voting yes on Article VII is the only way to guarantee Shelburne’s ability to have a meaningful impact during the CCPSA’s formative period when many important decisions will be made.

Data collected thus far suggests significant public safety improvements and long-term cost containment can be achieved if communities in Chittenden County band together to provide 911 call-taking and emergency dispatching services through a regional dispatch center. In addition to reducing the response time for emergency 911 calls (throughout the entire county) by an average of 70 seconds, a regional center can also (1) improve mutual aid among towns (2) more efficiently utilize staff resources allowing more dispatchers to resource multiple emergencies in a single community (3) provide dedicated oversight to more fire and EMS calls which will enhance emergency responder safety.

It is still too early in the process for a definitive conclusion to be made whether or not paying for and receiving services from the CCPSA is in Shelburne’s best interest. However, Shelburne has everything to gain and nothing to lose by claiming a seat at the table as a voting member of CCPSA’s governing body during its developmental phase.

Joe Colangelo is Shelburne’s town manager and serves on the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority’s Joint-Survey Committee as Shelburne’s appointed representative

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