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Results of a study by the towns of Waterford, New London and East Lyme bolster the idea of a regional emergency dispatch center and have led to work on an implementation plan.
The feasibility study released on Wednesday recommends the creation of the New London County Regional Communications Center at the Waterford Emergency Communications Center, where it would take the least amount of capital investment to convert it.
The study concludes that with incentives from the state and federal governments, regionalization would save money and improve efficiency, especially during a large-scale event.
"Our three municipalities are geographically and socially connected in ways that make this especially critical for us," according to the report.
New London's Development and Planning Director Tammy Daugherty worked on the study with fellow project managers Waterford Police Lt. Brett Mahoney and Sgt. Stephen Bellos, and East Lyme firefighter Bill Allen.
"The information we have right now is very compelling," Daugherty said. "We have a great foundation."
The study shows that the towns could save a combined $61,000 annually in equipment and maintenance costs.
Fewer people would be required to run a regional operation. While the three towns currently employ 21 full-time and 25 part-time workers, a consolidated dispatch would eliminate the need for part-time staff while retaining the full-time positions, according to the study. The estimated combined savings is $153,693 a year, $88,936 of which is currently funding the 16 part-time dispatchers in East Lyme.
Upgrades to the entire communications system, which would dispatch medical, fire and police for each town, would be about $452,000, plus about $54,250 in annual maintenance fees, according to a quote from Tritech Software Systems included in the study.
The state Department of Safety Emergency Telecommunications offers up to $750,000 in transitional grants and yearly subsidies for consolidation, with more money available for each town that joins.
The impetus for the regional system was New London's recent $2.38 million radio system overhaul, which switches the city onto Waterford's digital system and allows it to use Waterford's infrastructure for New London's signals.
East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica, Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward and New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio all released statements Wednesday saying they were encouraged by the potential for efficiencies and looked forward to more information.
An implementation plan is expected to be completed by year's end and will further delve into labor issues, financing, governance structure and time lines for implementation.
"All interested parties and political bodies will have input into the process and will have a seat at the table," Finizio said in the statement. "What this feasibility report demonstrates, however, is that the benefits of this regional approach from both a public safety and monetary standpoint, indicate that the time has come to act. It is time to move this forward."