Shelburne, state police may lose dispatchers

The E911 emergency call centers operated by the town of Shelburne and Vermont State Police in Williston may lose funding for two dispatchers each if the proposed new Chittenden County Regional Dispatch Center begins operation.

Emergency calls dispatched to Charlotte and Hinesburg’s first responders – police, fire and rescue – are served by the Shelburne call center.

Vermont Enhanced 911 Board gave tentative approval last month to the idea of shifting up to four state-funded emergency dispatching positions to the new dispatch center proposed by the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority. The new agency is designed to cover emergency calls within Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski, Colchester, Milton and Williston.
Vermont State Police Capt. Thomas Hango, who oversees the two state-owned answering sites, called Public Safety Answering Points, told fellow E911 board members his department had an expectation it might lose funds that now cover a couple of salaries in Williston.

Shelburne officials were not at the board meeting, nor were they invited.

Barbara Neal, the executive director of the E911 board, said Tuesday that nothing is definite. She said she still has to review emergency call statistics coming from all the towns across Vermont before a determination is made on shuffling seats among dispatchers.

On Town Meeting Day last month, seven Chittenden County communities voted on whether to participate in forming the new regional dispatch authority. Shelburne was the only town where voters rejected the proposal; the vote was 1,149 to 906 against it.

The vote by the state E911 Board happened toward the end of its quarterly meeting earlier this month. It came after members were told the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority had approved a formal resolution requesting the state make the proposed center a designated PSAP. The target date for opening is July 2019.

The state board approved the request 5-0 with Burlington Fire Chief Steve Locke abstaining. Locke, the former fire chief in Hartford, also serves as a member of the Chittenden County Public Safety Board.
Locke acknowledged that there were “plenty of opportunities for this to fall apart.”

Regional dispatching has been discussed off and on for about 50 years in Chittenden County.

Shelburne has operated its own 24-hour dispatching center for about 50 years. Shelburne has picked up other agencies through the years and now handles calls and dispatching for 49 police, fire, rescue and first responder agencies in Chittenden, Addison and Grand Isle counties, according to a list on its website.

Chittenden County officials have estimated that the new Chittenden call center might field 40,000 calls a year and that it would reduce incoming calls to the state police in Williston and the call center in Shelburne.

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