Plans for regional dispatch in Montville on hold
Montville — Unionization of emergency dispatchers in Colchester has delayed plans for establishment of a regional dispatch center in Montville.
The non-union employees at Colchester Emergency Communications, known by the call letters KX, last month voted to join UE Local 222, Connecticut Independent Labor Union/Connecticut Independent Police Union. The union also represents employees at a regional dispatch center in Tolland County.
The move came as plans were falling into place for the nonprofit KX to move from their headquarters at the state police barracks in Colchester into more updated accommodations at the Montville Public Safety Building.
Montville had already signed a five-year contract with KX and secured a $250,000 state grant to facilitate the move, which was expected to become reality by July.
But KX dispatchers expressed a concern of the unknown and wanted to ensure they maintained rights and privileges, "and were not just subject to whatever was agreed to between Montville and (the KX Board of Directors)," said union representative Mike Lewis.
"With the union they have the opportunity to negotiate their concerns with the merger and how it will impact them," Lewis said. "I don't anticipate any problems, and I don't think it will be controversial."
Contract negotiations are ongoing, which Montville Mayor Ronald McDaniel said the town in now in a holding pattern waiting for the results.
Once a contract is signed, McDaniel said the town will need to review the contract terms since the Montville dispatchers are not part of the process. There are three full-time dispatchers and a mix of part-time dispatchers in Montville who are now part of a union with town public works employees, but would join the new union if the merger materializes.
"Until they negotiate with the union, we don't know where we stand. Everybody's looking out for their interests," McDaniel said. "But we want to make sure we provide the best level of service and protect our employees."
At the time Montville signed a contract, KX dispatchers fielded 911 calls and dispatched a mix of fire, emergency medical and police services in eight towns: Bozrah, Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam Neck section of Haddam, Lebanon, Marlborough and Salem.
All member towns have representatives on the KX board, and each town pays a share based on its population and call volume. KX receives a state stipend, $320,000 last year, which increases with each town added to the fold.
The financial stability of KX is bolstered as the number of towns it serves increases.
KX was hit with a loss of about $100,000 annually when Hebron left KX and joined with a dispatch center in Tolland two years ago. KX recently lost Lebanon to a dispatch center in Willimantic. Haddam Neck and East Haddam have yet to sign extended contracts.
Montville, the largest of the towns that would be served by KX, was expected to contribute about $290,000 annually as a member town while themselves saving money on operating costs. The other towns were collectively paying a total of about $522,000.
Douglas Knowlton, who represents Marlborough on the KX board and is project manager for the merger, said the loss of Lebanon is a hit that can be absorbed without a cost increase to other towns, though he said expenses may have to be trimmed.
"I'm still hopeful we can move forward with the consolidation," Knowlton said. "It's important to all the towns involved."
McDaniel said Montville could still decide to opt out of the merger based on terms written into the contract.
"With other towns peeling off ... it affects the whole funding mechanism," McDaniel said. "Not only has this got to work logistically for everybody first and foremost, but financially it has to work. The whole point is to have everybody save money to go to a bigger regional model."
McDaniel said he plans to address the town council as soon more information becomes available.
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