On Sept. 11, the North Branford Town Council held a special meeting regarding the Emergency Communications Committee, and CMED, which is currently located on Orange Street in New Haven where it dispatches fire, rescue and 911 for 16 towns.
"There have been many questions in regard to how to go about bringing CMED to North Branford," said . "There is funding available, grants to be applied for, but CMED and the regionalization of resources are separate issues."
Representatives from the State of Connecticut attended the meeting to answer questions including Joan Hilliard, head of Connecticut On-Line Law Enforcement Communications Teleprocessing (COLLECT) and William Youell, director of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP). Several Police Commissioners, members of the North Branford Fire Department and a dispatcher, among other residents, were also in attendance.
Hilliard voiced concern in having CMED dispatching police, too, as COLLECT operates under federal guidelines that must be followed and pointed out that there cannot be a "black" police station as it must be manned in order to run warrants.
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Mike Doody, the chairman of the ECC, reported that , had ran some preliminary numbers, estimating a savings of approximately $298,000 a year–the personnel cost of dispatchers.
Doody said he was aware that the police department would need to be updated before CMED could be housed there, but said "If you put up a $1 million building, it could be paid off in three years."
If the town were to proceed with CMED, there is grant money available, including approximately $895,000 from the state and $100,000 from CMED to outfit the center. Youell said there are grants up to $250,000 available from DESPP for towns that regionalize services, though they are "first-come, first-serve."
Other unanswered question was whether CMED would pay rent as North Branford would be the host facility and the operating costs of CMED.
"Even if we do save that money each year and go to CMED, we still don’t know how they’re operating," said Candelora. "First they said they’d pay us rent, then said that they wouldn’t pay for years if they put money up front for us."
Candelora suggested housing CMED in a building separate from the police station, leaving the current dispatchers in place; however Youell said that scenario would leave the town ineligible for the DESPP grant.
Several Police Commissioners attended the meeting after . Vice Chairman of the Police Commission Dave Palumbo, who is also on the ECC, shared information the police department had collected in regard to other towns regionalizing, finding that none had done so, as well as other concerns.
"Our building needs some attention—if we were to put CMED in there, we don’t have the room," said Palumbo. "We want what’s best for the town and for the safety of the fire and police, but right now we don't have concrete facts and figures and I don’t want to make a mistake. Maybe CMED isn’t the answer but maybe regionalizing with other communities could be."
Palumbo also said he had heard reports of dispatchers' mistakes but had never been presented with recordings, though the Police Commission would be drafting a letter to requesting the tapes.
Caprio then asked, "Do we have problems or are these perceived problems. If there is a problem and nobody's been alerted, that's a major problem."
With just , Doody pointed out that they are not able to do emergency medical dispatch as they're supposed to. Councilman Andrew Esposito said, "There's no question we need another dispatcher."
Steve Torino, a member of the , underscored the need for more dispatchers and the benefits of expanding the dispatch center.
"If you bring in CMED, you’re bringing in tax revenue, bringing in jobs for people who are getting food here, gas here so I don’t see how it could hurt the town," said Torino. "We’re going to be second again? A step behind? Everyone is looking at the negative side, no one’s looking at the positives. We'd be getting state-of-the-art equipment. As a taxpayer, during budget time we were here while you prioritized cuts, but if two 911s are called in at once, who is the priority then?"
While everyone in the room may not have been in agreement of which direction the town should take, almost all seemed to voice the opinion that more information was needed.
"Right now we have a lot more homework to do before we do anything," said Candelora. "In order to fix a problem, you have to know what the problem is. We should continue down the path of looking at options."
The ECC is planning to include a representative from DESPP and Hilliard at its next meeting to continue to explore possibilities. Caprio also asked if any dispatchers had been in attendance at the meetings–they hadn't–but it was suggested they may be included in future meetings.
"We're still looking into our options," said Doody. "The Committee has not yet made any recommendations–the Committee isn't done."