Regional dispatch

Progress continues toward creating a regional emergency communications center to serve the communities of New London, Waterford and East Lyme, with the potential to add more towns. The regional effort is difficult and complex, but well worth it. It would be located in Waterford, upgrading existing equipment there. It has the potential to save money, improve policing and better position the communities to deal with large-scale emergencies that cross town boundaries.

Some public services make sense to undertake regionally, emergency dispatch among them.

A feasibility study, completed in July, concluded that once up and operating the New London County Regional Communications Center could collectively save the three municipalities about $215,000 annually in reduced labor, equipment and maintenance costs.

Fewer dispatchers will be necessary if the consolidation takes place. Job displacement is the downside of any effort to improve efficiency, but government leaders cannot expect taxpayers tolerate inefficiency to keep jobs.

Implementing the regional operation is expected to cost about $452,000 for new equipment, but state grants to encourage regional initiatives should cover the expense. The legislature recognizes that it is in the interest of the state, which subsidizes municipal operations, to find savings through regionalization efforts.

Advantages will not end at savings, however. Having a single emergency communications center will allow quicker cross-town cooperation and organization. That could help crime investigations - criminals don't tend to pay much attention to town boundaries - and in dealing with major emergencies.

East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica said he has had discussions with other towns about regional dispatch services.

An implementation plan is due out in February, providing the chance to move from concept to reality. A meeting on the regional center proposal was held in East Lyme this past week. Meetings are planned in New London and Waterford to continue the discussion.

Political leaders in all three towns deserve credit for their pursuit of the plan. Opposition could well arise. Change is difficult. The recent move to consolidate State Police dispatch operations continues to face resistance.

Leaders in New London, Waterford and East Lyme should persist, providing an example of regional cooperation that could lead to other initiatives.

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