Firm selected for Fairfield, Westport dispatch center

Photo of Katrina Koerting
Veteran emergency dispatcher Lynn Erazmus works in front of a bank of screens in the Emergency Communications Center in Fairfield in 2018.

Veteran emergency dispatcher Lynn Erazmus works in front of a bank of screens in the Emergency Communications Center in Fairfield in 2018.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

FAIRFIELD — A firm has been selected to create the emergency communications center for Fairfield and Westport and the lease with Sacred Heart University to house it there has been amended, moving the project closer to reality.

Officials selected PAC Group, based in Torrington, to fit out and renovate the space for about $1.37 million. The firm was the lowest of six bidders, said Gerald Foley, Fairfield’s purchasing director.

Foley said they held a scope review meeting with that firm and the second lowest bidder, RFG Associates, out of Trumbull.

“Out of our scope review meeting, everyone was in consensus that that was the firm to go with,” he said at a recent Board of Selectmen’s meeting.

Officials also called PAC’s references, which included Sacred Heart.

“When we contacted them, they said they were one of their premier companies and that they did excellent work, on time and on budget,” Foley said.

The project has been in the works for about four years. It’s designed to save Westport and Fairfield money while improving call response times and service because either town will be able to respond. There’s also a chance of more towns coming on board as clients, depending on space.

Under the partnership, Fairfield and Westport evenly divide the capital costs, while the operating costs are split based on population and call volume. This means Fairfield assumes two-thirds of the operating budget and Westport covers the other third.

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe said he’s excited the project is coming together, which he said will offer a number of fiscal and safety benefits to both communities. He said the partnership with Sacred Heart is also interesting and has potential for their criminal justice program.

“That’s exciting that we’ve been able to come together as three communities,” he said.

The communications center will be located below Sacred Heart’s library. It was originally planned for the former GE building but was changed because the ice rink is now set for that spot.

Officials also amended the lease with the university changing it from two 121/2-year leases to one 25-year lease to better meet the terms of the bond. The lease already reflects the new location.

Everything else remains the same, including the $1 annual leasing fee.

The project is expected to cost about $4 million, up from the initial $2.9 million. The increase is largely due to technology purchases and a new location.

Most of the needed town bodies have already approved the additional appropriation with the rest of the approvals expected.

“The result of all of that is the project kickoff is slightly delayed,” Foley said.

The delay also prompted the need for a revised bid, since the original expired. The new bid to outfit the center is about $13,500 more, largely due to material costs going up for doors, frames, glassing, glazing, dry wall and the acoustic ceiling, he said.

There’s also more for labor because of new rates that went into effect for 2021.

Foley said they vetted it and the new numbers make sense especially since it’s been six months since the initial proposal.

The project should take about 120 days to complete once work starts, meaning the center should be operational by Sept. 1.

“It’s a long time coming,” Marpe said. “We’re excited.”