Frequently Asked Questions
More detailed info is available here, including presentations and minutes of meetings since the summer of 2016.
Thanks to the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission for its support of this effort to study Regional Dispatch.
Would all dispatch services in this county merge at once?
The proposed financial model works only if larger towns buy-in. Smaller towns are free to merge early, late, or not at all.
Given the critical nature of the Dispatch function, it's best that some towns move ahead, while others hold off.
After several towns prove the concept, others may join in when appropriate.
Why does Unified Municipal District (UMD) ring a bell?
The proposed governance structure for regional dispatch is a new government entity, separate from Chittenden County towns.
Essex residents have twice voted on proposed UMDs (aka Special Taxing Districts) in recent years:
Voters turned down a UMD for combining the Town and Village recreation departments in December 2016.
Voters approved a UMD for combining the Essex, Essex Junction and Westford school districts in November 2015.
Has Regional Dispatch been attempted before?
A Colchester paper ran the following headline in 1967: "Study Urges Five Towns Share Police Dispatching"
The idea of Regional Dispatch has been around for a while. As of Dec. 18, 2017, the Essex Town Manager and Police Chief said they have no problem with the idea of it, but they don't want their town to make that move without more data to show that it will actually save time and money. Other managers and chiefs have been more eager to sell it to their boards and voters, even as the majority of dispatchers rejects the plan.
Why are public safety chiefs writing letters of support?
The pressure is on in every town to save money without reducing services. What manager doesn't want to sign on to that?
Using the word 'Consolidation' provides an impression of lowering costs by paying fewer salaries. Also suggesting to people that, in an emergency, they don't want to wait extra seconds for help yields a pretty effective pitch.
Isn't UMD another name for Special Tax District?
Yes. Special Taxing Districts are known for providing services at higher costs and with less oversight than branches of local gov't.
Comedian John Oliver reviewed STDs in 2016, warning that they are almost
impossible to abolish, once created.
A 2017 article in the ICMA magazine Public Management explored STDs in "Hidden Government: The time has come for more accountability in special district governments." More STD/ UMD info is on the About page.
If Essex isn't planning a March vote, what's your point?
Because 1-step 911 dispatch is the trend elsewhere, Essex will see it again eventually; neighboring towns are seeing it now.
If and when a Regional Dispatch center is setup, Essex may revisit this issue. In the meantime, the electorate can get better-informed right here, right now about the issues.
Voters in other towns didn't have anyone "neutral" attending the meetings, month-after-month. Those attending the meetings to set up Regional Dispatch governance were, not surprisingly, interested in setting up RD governance. And their subsequent communications provided a one-sided view.
Although this website has an Essex bent, a Colchester resident will find this information highly pertinent to their own situation, except their direct-dial number to local dispatch, for example, will be different.
What is the CCPSA?
The creation of a Chittenden County Public Safety Authority means this proposal goes beyond consolidation of dispatch.
Notice that we are not being asked to create a CC Emergency Dispatch Authority.
Therefore, we can reasonably expect CCPSA to propose additional regional projects down-the-road.
Obviously, towns have banded together in the past to set up such organizations as CUSI, the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations, and CSWD, the Chittenden Solid Waste District, but their names make clear their narrow focus.
Of course, not all service-providers lend themselves to such consolidations. For example, while CSWD deals with many aspects (composting, recycling or disposal) of solid waste, individual property owners are responsible for contracting with waste haulers for curbside pick-up, if desired, unlike in a few towns and many other states. When asked to consolidate routes for more efficient and environmentally-sound waste hauling, business owners pushed back and insisted on maintaining redundant, market-based routes. Hyper-local control!
A great deal of work goes into setting up a UMD. Whether or not it's an easy decision for a particular town to join a UMD, the act of leaving a UMD can be difficult for any town, should the UMD fail to meet residents' expectations.
So are you saying I should never call 911, or that Regional Dispatch will slow response time further?
We have an alternative to 911 now (local dispatch), and, depending on the March votes, we may have additional choices later.
RD proponents have said that centralized dispatch will save time. That statement that needs qualifying.
In an emergency, dialing 911 as-it-is-now should provide a fairly fast response.
You may (or may not) save time by using another method:
1) by dialing direct to local dispatch in many instances, OR
2) by dialing RD after it is up and running, provided the local dispatchers have gotten extensive retraining and practice at script-based dispatch AND if it’s a 911 hub (no guarantee on that until Shelburne votes YES to join), OR
3) by working with phone system providers to update the 911 technology sooner rather than later to help the Rescue Squad find you as easily as Domino's Pizza does. (See bottom of Options page for details.)
Where were the Fire Chiefs and Rescue Director during this conversation? Their issues weren't addressed.
Essex Dispatch is a Police function. Therefore, the Selectboard spoke with the Police Chief and his staff about this issue.
On March 15, I asked the new Municipal Manager to invite all the chiefs to the table to see how our local dispatch service might better address the needs of all first responders, given the uncertainty of Regional Dispatch at this time.
Is the 911 system more vulnerable than direct-dialing?
At least one FBI Agent claims terrorists are plotting to wipe out the 911 emergency system in an attack 'only limited by your imagination'. We will post info to confirm or deny this statement as it becomes available.