News : Rutland Dispatch Center Closing in September
Rutland, VT, USA, June 4, 2015 -- Despite a public outcry at hearings earlier this year, state emergency call centers in Rutland and Derby will consolidate with Williston and Rockingham by September.
Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said that to fully understand the move, it is important to note that answering 911 calls and dispatching services are two different things.
With 911 call answering, there is a rollover system in place, and if a call goes to Rutland and all operators are busy, it can roll to a 911 operator in one of several Vermont locations," he said. "If three people taking calls in Rutland are busy, the 911 call will roll over to the next available operator — which may be answered in Hartford, Derby or Williston."
But that may not be the person who dispatches police or emergency services to the scene.
Flynn said the consolidation affects calls taken by Vermont State Police, which take 75 percent of the 911 calls in the state. The other 25 percent are answered at four local call centers around the state.
The Rutland call center will stop answering 911 calls on July 31, because Rutland does not have the new 911 infrastructure, Flynn said.
"The dispatch will be moved in September," Flynn said.
Rutland City’s police and fire departments have their own dispatch center.
What this move means for other local police and fire departments is that they must decide by Sept. 15 whether to pay for their own local dispatch services, contract with State Police, or have calls answered and dispatched by the two merged call centers in Williston or Rockingham, said State Police Capt. Donald Patch.
Currently, state emergency call center services are free for most locations, Patch said. But with newly released numbers, keeping the 911 calls local using State Police services might be too costly for small departments.
According to annual estimates presented to the state’s Joint Fiscal Committee and released Wednesday, it would cost more than $1.1 million a year to keep a Rutland dispatch center open.
If communities choose to go with the consolidated call centers, their cost will remain the same, Flynn said. If it was free previously, it will remain so.
"They have several options, and could also enter a lease agreement with the State police for the building and the equipment and hire their own dispatchers," he said.
The decision may be a difficult one.
"We will continue to need services regardless where they come from," said John Sly, Rutland Town’s deputy police chief. "We will explore the options we have; we will have to assess the costs of staying with the State Police center."
Sly said keeping services local may be important.
"Someone miles and miles away will not know the area," he said.
Flynn said the local argument is outdated.
"Before the advent of the enhanced 911 and GPS and Google maps, this was true," he said. "It is an evolutionary process and it is the next step to enhancing quick response."
The consolidation of the centers will mean job losses at the closed call centers in Rutland and Derby.
"We will be cutting positions," Patch said.
Call center staffing in Williston and Rockingham will increase. Patch said Williston will go from 24 employees to 32; Rockingham from 10 to 24.
That means that Rutland and Derby will lose six positions each, because the additional slots in Williston and Rockingham will be offered to current staff.
"On top of that we will lose two administrative positions," Flynn said.
So between Williston, Rockingham, Rutland, and Derby, there will be a net loss of 12 call positions and two administrative positions.
"There will be a total of 14 positions lost," Flynn said. "But some people have left and the positions have not been filled."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, June 8, 2015