Letters to the Editor, Colchester SunDispatchers have concerns

There have been many statements in the media lately concerning a regional dispatch center for Chittenden County. The employees of the Burlington Emergency Communications Center would like to address a few of those statements. The main issue to be addressed is the approximately 60-71 seconds that will be theoretically be saved on each emergency call. That tracks the amount of time that passes from when a person calls 911 to the time 911 transfers the call to a municipal dispatch center, for this purpose when they transfer to Burlington dispatch.

The problem is that once a regional center is formed, it will become a PSAP, which then assumes those responsibilities. The amount of time that will be saved is the time the call is transferred to Burlington to the time Burlington takes ownership of the call. This second section of the call is when 911 is repeating the information that has already been gathered to the Burlington dispatcher. Based on personal experience in the dispatch center, this takes on average 10-20 seconds. While the 60-70 seconds does accurately represent part of the phone call, it is not the part that will be removed from the process.

It has also been said that the only or primary concern for dispatchers is whether or not dispatchers will have to reapply for their own jobs. While it is true that we are worried about the possibility of losing our employment, the main reason we are unsettled by this plan is that there is no plan. The most articulate analogy would be that the city is asking its citizens to approve a business loan without the city presenting a business plan. Operationally there is nothing in place to show how the center would function on a day-to-day basis or whether it would be staffed appropriately to handle the call volume. Understandably it would be impossible to create a definitive layout but even hypothetical outline would be appreciated as a good faith effort. This regional center could present increased concerns for employees as well as the general public. If the center is understaffed or staffed by employees not familiar with Burlington’s call volume, that will lead to officers remaining on scene for a longer amount of time. This would, if compounded enough, result in delayed response times to calls for service. It also increases the risk of a dispatcher missing radio traffic. In this profession, one missed transmission could be monumentally dangerous, an officer or firefighter calling for help often cannot be repeated meaning there is one chance to receive it.

At this time our concerns are too great to be able to support the current proposal. We look forward to continuing the conversation to ensure that any plan moving forward will prioritize the safety of the citizens and first responders of Burlington.

Kathryn Clark

AFSCME Union Steward

Emergency
Communications Specialist

Agencies support dispatch plan

Colchester Police, Colchester Rescue, Malletts Bay Fire Department and the Colchester Fire District 2 Prudential Committee all support the proposal to create a regional dispatch entity known as the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority. This proposal follows 18 months of recent work and has been discussed since 1967.

Two prior studies in 1995 and 2000 determined that regional dispatch was viable and worthwhile. Regional dispatch, especially when combined with a regional public safety answering point, is worthwhile because it can:

Reduce response time in virtually every 911 call by avoiding a transfer to local dispatch, saving about 70 seconds per call

Improve cross jurisdictional mutual aid which happens every day for rescue and regularly for fire

Increase minimum staffing at any given time, allowing more dispatchers to resource multiple emergencies in a single community

Provide dedicated oversight to fire and EMS calls, increasing responder safety

The current effort focused on how to achieve regional dispatch from two perspectives, a technical perspective and a governance perspective. It was determined that there was no entity with the authority to operate regional dispatch. Thus, much time was spent evaluating governance options and developing and agreement that will serve as a charter for the organization.

The Malletts Bay Fire Department and the Colchester Fire District 2 Prudential Committee recommends approval of the item on the Town Meeting ballot.

Chief Jennifer Morrison

Colchester Police

Chief S. Amy Akerlind

Colchester Rescue

Chief Stephen Bourgeois

Malletts Bay Fire Department

Who is Colchester?

My first budget season as a school board member was 2014. I had a newborn and new house. I had lived in Colchester since 2006, but was just coming off a short sabbatical in Tampa, Fla. which left me craving a strong community that cared about the collective good. I returned to Colchester because I believe this to be that kind of community.

In every educational measure being discussed at the state level, Colchester is leading the way. I am proud of my fellow board members and the administrative team for working to advocate for the quality of the education our children need with this year’s proposed budget. When you go to the polls on March 6, we are asking you to support a school budget of just over $40 million that represents an increase of 3.67 percent over our current year’s spending.

Colchester continues to demonstrate that we are a low spending district. For at least the past 12 years, our average per pupil spending has been below the statewide average, and last year we were the lowest in Chittenden County. Yet, the majority of our students rank in the top quarter of schools in the county on statewide exams and above the Vermont average in English, math and science. We are a school district with strong academic performance.

We know that every dollar increase puts more stress on our households and families. The proposed budget represents careful consideration of the balance between the needs of Colchester’s students and the fiscal burden it places on Colchester’s residents. Even with all the conscientious budgeting and planning Colchester is doing, some members of the community might see a significant tax increase of around 10 percent. The catch is that even if we level funded the school budget, requiring a $1.3 million cut, we would still see a sizable increase of 5.5 percent. This budget demonstrates that we are a school district that puts the success of our children and the future prosperity of our town first.

There are a few important costs that are contributing to the tax increase this year. Some are out of our control like the dollar yield and common level of appraisal. Others are essential to providing a safe experience for the children of Colchester such as an increase in our transportation spending and in special education costs based on the number of students receiving services and the intensity of need. We are a school district that keeps all students safe and supported.

Colchester is a community which young families seek out because of our strong educational reputation. We take pride in our schools and support their excellence against a state legislative backdrop of negativity toward education. We are the type of community that works together to make an investment in our collective futures by ensuring our schools provide the best experience for every student that attends. If you take pride in being this kind of community, please come make your voice heard on March 6.

Lindsey Cox

CSD School Board Director

No more status quo at polls

A 10-plus percent  increase in school taxes, in my estimation, totally flies in the face of the states request to hold spending for education to as close to 0 as possible as well as looking out for the taxpayer. The school board indicates that this increase is partially due to the poorer districts that we are helping pay for. This is not new news.  However, given the rest of the explanation, it would seem the district is grasping at whatever they can to ensure the budget is justified.

The school population is flat over the last two years yet has an overall downward trend since 2001. That having been said, what has the school board done to reduce headcount since 2001? By their own reports adjustments have been small if at all. Further, superintendent Amy Minor indicates middle school academic performance has dropped. Given all that we spend on education that would fall directly in the laps of the educators, that would include Ms. Minor.  Throwing more money at the problem does no one any good.

We need a budget that we can all live with. The school board has been doing this to us for years. This budget must be defeated. We must force the school board to make major cuts in staffing to get this budget affordable.  Please do not allow the status quo to exist one minute longer than necessary. See you at the polls.

Michael Wilson

Colchester

E-mail your letter (450 words or fewer) to news@colchestersun.com. Please include your full name, address and phone number for verification. Deadline: Fridays at 5 p.m. Read our full policy at www.colchestersun.com.