Inter-Municipal Emergency Dispatch Concept Goes to Voters in March

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Thursday December 21, 2017

At the December 18 city council meeting, councilors unanimously approved a resolution for the formation of a Union Municipal District (UMD) known as the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority (CCPSA), created with the goal of coordinating emergency services among neighboring communities. The resolution, which was reviewed by attorneys and meets the approval of Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan, will go before the voters of South Burlington in March 2018.

The seven other potential participating cities and towns, including Burlington, Colchester, Milton, Essex, Williston, Shelburne, and Winooski, were also considering the resolution for regional dispatch services at their meetings this week. In addition to South Burlington, Colchester and Burlington approved taking the item to their electorates on town meeting day. Should the voters approve this initiative in March, the resolution would move to the city council where they would decide to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding sustainable cost sharing.

This project has been in development since 2016 when the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) began studying a multi-town or regional approach to emergency dispatch services, including the possibility of incorporating E-911. Fourteen items were analyzed including prior studies of regional dispatch services, leadership and accountability, fiscal and operation controls, staffing, and capital costs. The study was led by the managers of the participating municipalities with the assistance of the police and fire chiefs as well as the CCRPC.

According to a memo to the city council from City Manager Kevin Dorn, currently, when one has an emergency and dials 911, the call goes to your locally designated Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), and if those operators are busy, to another PSAP elsewhere in the state. The 911 call taker records information related to your emergency and then connects you to the local dispatch operator serving your community. The 911 center then makes the hand-off to the local dispatcher. You provide additional information to the local dispatcher and the appropriate responding department is notified and either police, fire, or ambulance services or a combination thereof are dispatched. Given the numerous steps associated with the current process, statistics indicate that transitioning to this new system could save, on average, 71 seconds per call.
UMDs provide the governance vehicle that allows separate communities to come together to share a service. The Chittenden Solid Waste District and Green Mountain Transit are examples of UMDs already operating within the state.

The legislative bodies of the eight communities have already established a joint survey committee to develop an agreement that will serve as the governing document for this UMD. The agreement was finalized in October, with the assistance of legal counsel.

Dorn wrote, “Once membership has been approved by each community’s voters and the MOU approved by the legislative bodies, the Authority’s board of directors will meet and begin to establish the needed dispatch infrastructure and technology and hire personnel. The location we have identified for the CCPSA is 19 Gregory Drive, our PD [police department] building. The authority will not be housed within our PD, but in other office space within the part of the building still owned by Bobby Miller.”

According to Dorn, “should everything go smoothly we could see the transfer of dispatch services, probably one community at a time, by this time next fall or winter.”


SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent