Regional dispatch plan makes sense

Towns in southeastern Connecticut and the rest of the state often spend considerable sums individually providing services that could just as well be shared, which is why this newspaper has long advocated an increasingly regional approach to government.

We are pleased that the state House of Representatives apparently agrees, unanimously approving a bill this week to create a regional dispatch authority for police, fire and emergency services.

This legislation is of particular interest in New London, Waterford and East Lyme, where officials for years have struggled to come up with a plan for how such a center would operate and how much each municipality would pay. The authority, comprised of representatives from each municipality, would be charged with developing staffing levels and other aspects of the center, and then overseeing operations.

A center also could be eligible for state and federal funds, further reducing the amount individual towns now pay for such services.

The key will be to negotiate new labor contracts with unions representing employees now at separate centers. Unfortunately, one significant way to save money - in addition to reducing the expense of heating, lighting and maintaining three separate buildings - is eliminating jobs.

Officials in New London, Waterford and East Lyme will have to weigh the value of trimming payroll expenses versus the consequences of putting people out of work. We hope any job losses can be covered by attrition, retirement or reassignment rather than layoffs.

The bill now goes to the Senate for a possible vote and then would have to be signed by the governor. We urge all parties to continue moving toward final approval so towns can start reaping the benefits.

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