Ledyard commission supports keeping dispatchers in town

Ledyard - At a short special meeting called one week after emergency services staff, volunteers and residents expressed adamant support for keeping the Ledyard Emergency Communications Center in town, the Public Safety Commission voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to endorse this sentiment along with efforts to turn it into a regional center.

Chairman Sean McGuckin said the motion was not in support of simply maintaining the status quo, but rather exploring options to expand upon a valuable service that should remain in Ledyard.

The center, comprised of six full-time and eight part-time dispatchers, also dispatches for the town of Preston. Options for outsourcing to Groton or Montville have been presented in recent months. McGuckin said Tuesday that the commission will encourage the town to look into dispatching for Voluntown when its contract with Quinebaug Valley expires at the end of the year, keeping up with a state trend of regionalization.

The most recent exploration of regionalizing the dispatch center - and possibly outsourcing it to another town - began about a year and a half ago, though it is a discussion that has continued on and off for years. In 2011, a subcommittee was formed to do a cost analysis of outsourcing options versus keeping services in town.

"We've been down the path on this topic several times over the past five years," McGuckin said. "And here we sit again at essentially the same spot."

McGuckin said that the last time the commission made such an endorsement was about two years ago. This meeting was called, he said, because a number of commission members had expressed some frustration and wanted to make their intentions clear to the public.

"We're voting on essentially the same thing we said before," he said. "And maybe this time we'll have some momentum, and we'll be able to act on it."

Chief Emergency Communications Specialist Paula Jean Smith said she was encouraged by the motion made at the meeting.

"It's a step in the right direction," she said, that recognizes "the value of the service we provide."

Mayor John Rodolico will give a presentation at tonight's Town Council meeting similar to the one he gave at the commission's meeting last week, in which he presented three options: sticking with the status quo, negotiating scheduling and staffing changes in Ledyard to include having two dispatchers on duty at all times, and continuing discussions with other towns.

a.isaacs@theday.com

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