Changes for handling 911 spark concerns

First responders packed Shelburne’s meeting room Tuesday night while Barbara M. Neal, the executive director of the state E911 board, addressed the Selectboard about the potential changes to local dispatching services.

Shelburne is one of six Vermont 911 Public Safety Answering Points in the state.

Shelburne also is home to two of the 26 total state-funded Public Safety Answering Point positions in the state, which will need to be redistributed if the proposed new Chittenden County Regional Dispatch Center ever begins operation. That development is estimated to be 18 to 24 months away, according to Neal.

On Town Meeting Day in March, seven Chittenden County towns voted to form the regional dispatch center. Shelburne was the only town that voted not to participate and is the only one of those towns with its own dispatching service. It, in turn, contracts with 49 police, fire, rescue and first responder agencies in Chittenden, Addison and Grand Isle counties, according to its website.

With the decision by the Chittenden County communities to move forward with the regional dispatch center, the E911 board discussed reallocating for the new center up to four of the state-funded seats.

Neal mentioned that the national trend for E911 is for fewer centers. State officials have discussed the possibility of the dispatcher positions for the new regional center coming from Shelburne’s existing positions.

“Where seats are assigned to depends on call volume,” Neal told the group of about 25 gathered for her visit with town officials Tuesday. Shelburne and contracting town officials and first responders raised questions about the impact of the possible changes to their communities. A common fear raised was whether services to 911 callers could be disrupted.

Neal emphasized that the change being considered only involves how 911 calls are answered, not how emergency services are dispatched.

Patricia Vincent, Shelburne’s dispatch supervisor, noted that a shift to remove 911 positions from Shelburne would mean a loss of state funding for Shelburne of approximately $76,000 that pays for the positions and it may mean the loss of technology used in handling 911 calls.

Under the new plan with a regional center, calls that now go to Shelburne’s 911 center would go elsewhere. Shelburne’s dispatch center then would be contacted when there is an emergency, creating a two-stage process instead of the current one-stage call where 911 and dispatch are in the same place.

“It is just the 911 component that changes,” Neal said.

One of the selling points of the Chittenden County Regional Dispatch Center is that it will save the regional dispatching center time to have both the 911 service and dispatching service together. But those using the Shelburne system now say the setup already is efficient.

If Shelburne were to lose the 911 seats, “we lose the time they save,” Charlotte Fire Chief Dick St. George said.

John Goodrich, Shelburne deputy fire chief, agreed. “We feel that it would bring our service down potentially,” he said.

Neal said she would relay the concerns she heard in Shelburne to her state board colleagues as they continue these discussions. She also encouraged Shelburne officials to attend future meetings of the state board where this will be discussed.

Search for town manager
Another important topic of business Tuesday for the Selectboard was continuing the process to find a permanent replacement for former Town Manager Joe Colangelo, who left Shelburne for a new position in Massachusetts at the end of April. Lee Krohn has been hired as the interim manager through August while a search is underway.

Members of the search committee updated the board Tuesday night; Roger Preis spoke to the Selectboard on behalf of the committee, which asked for funding for the search. The committee wants to pursue a nationwide search, and has asked to hire a recruiting company. On Tuesday, the Selectboard voted to allow up to $20,000 for this expense. The committee will advertise a request for bids from potential recruiting firms.

The Selectboard decided that the salary range advertised for the job would be potentially $90,000 to $115,000, and the town would provide modest relocation costs.

They arrived at that figure based on research by Ann Janda, the town director of administration, who said she surveyed other Chittenden County communities to see what comparable manager salaries are. Colangelo’s annual salary was $108,000 at the time he left, after four years in the position.

Moving forward with transportation
The town was allotted a planning grant from the regional planning commission for a downtown traffic study earlier this year. During discussion Tuesday night, Krohn noted that there already have been multiple transportation studies done in Shelburne in recent years, all of which have made various recommendations.

The Selectboard has budgeted $7,500 to match the planning grant, but the board Tuesday night discussed instead using that money to review the existing studies and their suggestions first.

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