911 Dispatch Centers Calling for Help

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911 DispatcherVERMONT – In order to save $1.7 million for next year’s state budget, two 911 call centers, are in consideration of being shut down. The Derby and Rutland Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP's) have been targeted out of the state's 12 dispatch centers to shut their doors in order to save the state money after last year's shortfall of financial resources.

The twelve PSAP’s are divided into four Troops, consisting of three Barracks each. These Troops are located in Williston (Troop A), Derby (Troop B), Rutland (Troop C), and Rockingham (Troop D).

The plan is to have Troop B and C, which serve northeastern Vermont, consolidate with Troop A and D, while adding only 10 full-time positions.

The two closing units combined, currently employ 31 full-time and 11 part-time employees.

This means that 42 workers are in jeopardy of losing their job.

“Anytime you are losing people, it’s not a good thing, said Captain Robert Cushing, the Derby Dispatch Commander. “The human side of this is not a great thing.”

According to Governor Peter Shumlin, the need for the elimination comes after last year’s budget shortfall of almost $100 million.

Governor Shumlin proposed the elimination of the two centers after a significant gap in last year’s over-time hours between the Orleans county dispatch centers and others across the state.

Cushing believed, “If it does go, I do think they [Rockingham and Williston Dispatch Centers] will be able to handle it.”

But with 32 less dispatchers, many fear that Vermont’s public safety is at risk.

“I think they absolutely will not be able to handle it, said Elizabeth Adams, the Rutland Staff Administrator of 11 years, “They will be over worked, over stressed, and working over time.”

The Derby Barracks alone respond to the largest geographical coverage area of 1,395 miles, all while being least populated area of the state.

Nick Sheeran, a Rutland dispatcher of four years said, “We seem to be stretched now with the number of calls we take.”

And with the number of 911 calls increasing by 3% each year, Sheeran does not believe that fewer workers will be able to handle the extended coverage area.

“We are being asked to know 50% of the state rather than what we know now,” said Sheeran.

Another main concern of the Rutland employees is the lack of expertise the new dispatchers will have of the Orleans County area.

“It would be affective assuming all of the workers would be willing to commute to the new location, the positions might end up being filled with brand new bodies off the street,” says Adams, “and it takes six to nine months to train a dispatcher.”

When asked if he would transfer to the Rockingham or Williston Dispatch Centers, “there’s so many unknowns for anyone to make a decision to transfer or not, but the commute side is a major factor,” Sheeran says.

The closing of the two stations is planned to take place July first, but Cushing said, “That doesn’t mean it won’t happen before that.”

In response to the state’s decision, Adams said, “They are saying that there’s nothing that we can do but I think it’s because they want us to stop trying.”

Adams and other Rutland and Derby employees are asking residents to make calls to their state legislators and express that they don’t want public safety jobs to be eliminated.

“Think of the person you love the most in the whole world and that person starts chocking. What do you do? You call 911. How long do you want to wait for a person to answer the phone and know exactly where you are located?” said Adams.

For the past two years, the average time to answer an emergency call has been seven seconds.

Many believe that number will rise as a result of the consolidation.

The Rutland area has recently been hit with a spike in unemployment. A fire back in 2014 left 175 Rutland Plywood employees out of a job.