Plan for shared Fairfield, Westport dispatch center moves forward
FAIRFIELD — In its first ever virtual meeting, the Board of Selectmen voted to approve a lease agreement for the building that will serve as the emergency communications call center for Westport and Fairfield.
The center would take up the 2,900-square-feet on the first floor of the former General Electric building on Park Avenue. The agreement is between the towns of Fairfield and Westport and Sacred Heart University, which owns the building.
The selectmen voted unanimously to approve the lease agreement. Selectman Thomas Flynn said the combined center made sense from a financial and operations perspective.
“The public gets better service at an overall reduced cost,” Flynn said. “I applaud the prior administration for initiating the process and the current administration for its commitment to implement it.”
The towns would pay a symbolic $1 a year rent as part of the partnership. The plan has been in the works since 2018, when the towns shared the $80,000 cost of hiring a consultant to create a study on how the joint dispatch center would operate and whether it would be cost effective.
The plan for the two towns to run a joint dispatch center is slightly behind schedule, originally planned to be up and running by Jan. 1.
In April of last year, Fairfield Fire Department Chief Denis McCarthy said a two-town force would help “people in the field get faster backup.”
“This is something we should have done a long time ago,” Westport Police Department Chief Foti Koskinas said last year. Westport currently has two dispatch centers: one at police headquarters for police and Emergency Medical Service calls and another at the fire department for fire related calls.
Koskinas also said response times would decrease if the two municipalities shared the service. As of now, if a serious call is made in the part of Westport near the Fairfield border, Fairfield emergency services are not notified, even if they may be closer to the scene.
Fairfield Police Department Deputy Chief Donald Smith said last year that savings would be in the long term, particularly in the purchase and replacement of equipment.
“Instead of one municipality paying to upgrade their center, it’s now multiple municipalities splitting the cost to upgrade centers,” he said at the time.
When the plan comes to fruition, Westport will be able to benefit from a state subsidy that towns with a population greater than 40,000 get towards dispatch center funding.
Smith said the cost of moving and equipment would be in the $2 million to $2.5 million range, an amount the town bodies could bond.
The Representative Town Meeting will vote on the measure during its March 23 meeting.