Seven Chittenden County towns are voting whether to create a regional dispatch center.
Those towns are Burlington, South Burlington, Milton, Shelburne, Williston, Colchester and Winooski. Local 22 & Local 44 were able to check in with folks in South Burlington, Williston and Winooski whose opinions varied.
In South Burlington, Vice President of the Police Officers Association Sean Pope explained the association is against the vote.
Those in favor have been promoting there will be 60 to 70 seconds saved on each 911 call by creating a regional center, but Pope said it’s closer to 10 to 15 seconds. Pope made it clear that the South Burlington Police Officers Association is not opposed to regional dispatch, but rather the way its been presented to voters.
“We think it was misleading and unfair for the voters to be asked to vote on something that they have no plan for and no cost analysis for,” Pope said.
Pope encourages residents to vote ‘no’ for that reason and others. He said that there are programs run by dispatchers that would be lost in consolidation and said dispatchers do more than just answer the phone. He added South Burlington Police is understaffed and officers are stretched too thinly to pick up those responsibilities as well.
Former South Burlington police officer and current Winooski resident Thomas Fraga has a different view. He said he voted ‘yes’ concerning regional dispatch.
“Their training will get better,” Fraga said. “We’ll get real professionals in there with all communities under one. It’s time for us to consolidate as a community. I think our police departments aren’t far away from it themselves.”
Fraga said he thinks consolidation will offer new and stronger professional opportunities for dispatchers.
Carmyn Stanko said she voted ‘no’ on the regional dispatch item because she values having dispatchers in the community.
Stanko has been a Williston resident for 36 years.
“I think it’s really important for us to have local dispatchers who know our citizens, know where we live and to feel like it’s a better response time,” Stanko said.
Stanko said she is also concerned for dispatcher job loss.
Pope said three of the seven towns will need to vote ‘yes’ to create the regional dispatch center.