Montville Fire Marshal Ray Occhialini has seen the future, and it is regional.
He and Montville Mayor Joe Jaskiewicz said Tuesday, at a presentation on the regional dispatch center, that that is one of the strengths of Montville’s project: The center is going to be built.
It is part of the new Public Safety Building project, which is already funded. Bids for the project came in last week; ground-breaking is scheduled to begin in July.
Occhialini said he had thought that Ledyard officials were going to attend the presentation, but they did not show.
Chief Ronald J. Samul, the only person from outside Montville to attend the presentation, said that he agreed that this was one of the strengths of the project. It does not depend on participation by agencies in the region. It is going to happen, and someone is going to participate; the only question is who.
Occhialini detailed several major parts of the project.
Montville has up to $350,000 to outfit the regional dispatch center. The project has budgeted for a radio tower, and equipment.
The dispatch room will have four consoles, and space for two more to be added. It is a separate area in the public safety building, with its own kitchen and its own bathrooms.
The consoles, the computers, the screens, the equipment will be new, like everything else in the building.
The regional nature of the dispatch center will mean that partner agencies – not Montville – will be eligible for transition grants for as much as $250,000 to help make all the agencies compatible. Occhialini said the compatibility would include radio towers, radio equipment and other items approved by OSET, the Office of Statewide Emergency Telecommunications.
One of the biggest changes would be in the way the regional dispatch center is run. It would be its own unit, with governing bylaws, and a board of directors representing each of the partnering towns.
A manager would be hired to run the dispatch center. This person would answer to the board of directors, and not to any of the individual towns.
Occhialini said that an effort would be made to hire all fulltime dispatchers already working in all the member towns.
A center like this has huge advantages, Occhialini said. He and Jaskiewicz believe that regional dispatching will save the towns money. He and Dispatcher Jon Leonard said that while four towns would be optimal, sharing the dispatching duties with even one other town makes financial sense.
Leonard also discussed the advantages of collaboration with other towns – not only is coverage ensured, but also everyone learns everyone else’s towns, and everyone else’s operating procedures. This strengthens the response throughout the area, Leonard said.
In addition, Occhialini and Leonard said, there’s a huge advantage to having one person working a call for as long as it takes to resolve the problem.
Samuls agreed. “It might be half an hour; it might be two and a half days,” he said. The consistency will help the outcome.
The group discussed potential problems, as well.
Samuls asked what would happen to the existing equipment of the towns involved in the regional dispatching. How would a town legally unplug its own dispatch center and plug into the new one?
“As we get into this more and more,” Samul said, “hopefully we will see someone from police here. I will represent fire. We will need someone from IT here, too,” he said.
New London had discussed a regional dispatching idea at one point, years ago, he said, but it had not appeared to be a financially smart move, and so the city abandoned the idea.
“Since then,” Samul said, “we have new leadership and they are more receptive.
“Speaking for myself, I am very supportive of regional projects,” he said, “so much so that, if for some reason, the New London Police Department was not able to be included, I am still going to pursue” the idea for New London fire and emergency personnel.
“We have to professionalize our dispatch center,” he said.
Jaskiewicz said that many people want to know how you can dispatch for a town in which you are not located. He said that GPS and other computer mapping devices make it possible. In California, he said, there are six dispatch centers for the entire state.
“If we do this right,” he said, “this could be big for us.
“We have the building. You just have to say yes or no.”
Occhialini will make a similar presentation on Friday at 10:30 a.m. in the East Lyme Public Safety Building, 171 Boston Post Road, East Lyme.