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New Fairfield Emergency Communications Center to stay in town, staff hours to change

Staffing for the New Fairfield Emergency Communications Center has been discussed by the Board of Selectmen.  They also talked about the possibility of moving the dispatch to Newtown and changing the hours of dispatch workers.  An advisory committee put together to research the options recommended keeping the dispatch center in town.  The Board of Selectmen noted that the they would be willing to keep the dispatch center in town as long as there is more than one person at a time at the center, and the that length of the shifts are shortened.

The additional cost of these staffing changes would be approximately $60,000 per year.  The Board voted to keep the center in town and recommend to the Board of Finance that $58,000 to appropriated for additional staffing.  The money would come from surplus or the unassigned fund balance. 

It was decided that the Board of Selectmen will review call response times and part-time staffing levels for the Communications Center in six months.  Del Monaco says funding is set aside in ARPA for a new dispatch console, estimated at half a million dollars.  New Fairfield could apply for a STEAP grant, but that would require a 20-percent local match. 

The state standard is to answer 90 percent of calls within 10 seconds. 

Selectman Khris Hall says in the last four quarters, there was one where New Fairfield met that comfortably, two where they barely made it and one where they didn't meet that standard.  She says it wasn't a narrow miss either.  Del Monaco says her understanding is that when there are events in town, they can only answer a certain number of calls at one time.  When someone is out sick, the town is filling the role with overtime from another dispatcher rather than a part-timer on regular time pay. 

Del Monaco hopes it will make the job more attractive to part timers by creating more flexible, shorter shifts, which will also help control overtime costs.  She notes that the town already operates with one- and two-person departments, so there is no where to go in the budget to offset this new cost.

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Rich Valdes

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