Regional dispatch plan gets mixed reactions
WINSTED â€” A proposal to replace Winstedâ€™s current police and emergency dispatch system with a centralized service was met with mixed reactions Monday, Aug. 17, at Town Hall.
Litchfield County Dispatch (LCD) Executive Director John DelBuono spent approximately 90 minutes outlining a plan for the Board of Selectmen, saying the company could save the town $100,000 per year by taking responsibility for the townâ€™s dispatch services.
DelBuono said three new dispatchers would be hired by LCD to handle Winsted calls, with current Winsted dispatchers given priority in the hiring process.
Numerous people at Mondayâ€™s meeting expressed concern that the town was moving too quickly in its negotiations with the regional dispatcher, which currently serves 35 fire departments and ambulance companies throughout the county.
â€œI didnâ€™t know we were this far into the talks,â€ said Democratic Selectman Candy Perez. â€œIâ€™ve heard about things in the background. The details havenâ€™t been brought to my attention. I think it would be good for us to hear from our dispatch people at some point.â€
Republican Selectman Jeff Liskin acknowledged he has been meeting with DelBuono to discuss the possibility of having LCD take over Winstedâ€™s dispatch services. He expressed strong support for moving ahead to implement the change.
Perez said she was concerned about the process and that meetings were being held without the knowledge of the full board.
Also expressing concern was Police Chief Nicholas Guerriero, who said changing to a regional dispatch service might not be beneficial to Winsted.
â€œI would think before you make any kind of decision you would want the police chiefâ€™s input and find out exactly what I think about this,â€ he said. â€œI think the public deserves the right to find out exactly the impact this is going to have on the services the Winchester Police Department provides. I do know this creates some major complications for the way I provide emergency services to the town of Winchester.â€
Winsted dispatchers union representative John Silvano presented a letter from local dispatchers in opposition to switching to a regional dispatch service.
â€œThe current dispatch system has been in place since the creation of the Winchester Police Department,â€ the letter said, noting that switching to an outside service would take away the convenience of a Winsted office where people could appear in person to summon a dispatcher. â€œNo other police departments in the area alienate people in the manner that LCD [proposes to do].â€
Fire Chief Robert Shopey spoke in favor of making some kind of change to the current system, but did not offer specific support to Litchfield County Dispatch.
â€œThe Winsted Fire Department is not here to make a recommendation for dispatch services for the town of Winchester,â€ he said, adding that the current system must be changed. Shopey said the dispatch service should be managed by a team of service chiefs and not just the Winchester Police Department.
Republican David Cappabianca said he supports the idea to hire LCD. â€œI donâ€™t want to see this get bogged down for the sake of process,â€ he said. â€œI think there is a certain amount of unrest. I understand the dispatchersâ€™ concerns. Theyâ€™re not sure if theyâ€™re going to have jobs if the transition were to happen. I think we need to get this process into second or third gear and move it along. Iâ€™d like to see us put the thing in gear and sit down to have the meetings so we can say weâ€™re going or weâ€™re not. I donâ€™t think we need to belabor this thing for the next six to eight months.â€
Town Manager Keith Robbins and the Board of Selectmen agreed that further discussions will be necessary, including input from all emergency services, concerned residents and the dispatchers themselves. A meeting with local dispatchers has been scheduled for Aug. 25.
â€œWe have called the service chiefs together to talk about what our options are,â€ Robbins said. â€œIâ€™m not ready to make a recommendation one way or another. At some point in my lifetime regional dispatch will happen because the resources will dry up.â€