BARRE, Vt. - People in 2 Vermont towns say there are lots of benefits to combining emergency responders, including more full-time officers and faster response times.
Depending on where you live, sometimes the closest emergency responder during your time of need is in another town.
So in a moment when seconds are precious, proximity and response time are even more important. That's the thought behind consolidating EMS services in Barre and Montpelier.
“Putting all those services together simply means, in part, that the closest available equipment and people can respond to any emergency that arises,” said George Malek, President of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.
It's a concept making its way through both city councils. The two cities want to combine resources to create the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority.
They would share personnel and equipment, like million dollar ladder trucks, that are rarely used.
“So that's $4.5 million worth of equipment that currently isn't shared. There are Fire Chiefs, Police Chiefs, administrative costs. So what we're looking at is not necessarily what it means to one community but what it means to all of the communities,” said Barre Mayor Tom Lauzon.
The intent of the Public Safety Authority was to combine not only Barre and the state capital but Barre Town and Berlin as well. Barre Town and Berlin are opting out for the time being.
As for cost, Barre Mayor Tom Lauzon says, this isn't a cost-saving endeavor but a way to keep costs from getting any higher.
“We're looking at all these costs going up exponentially on an annual basis and we're trying to figure out how to contain them. So the model that we were looking at wasn't so much so we could eliminate personnel or eliminate cost but rather, contain them,” said Mayor Lauzon.
As it stands now, officials say consolidating your town's emergency response teams, does not mean you'll lose your police or fire station.
“Most likely it will utilize the same buildings that are being operated now. They would simply be under one unified department with personnel stationed where most important,” said Malek.
The Barre City Council is holding a public hearing on this issue on January 21st and February 18th.
If both city councils approve the merger, it will be put to a public vote on town meeting day in March.