RTM approves $2.8 million for joint dispatch center at SHU
FAIRFIELD — The plan to combine Fairfield and Westport police and fire forces at Sacred Heart University — also known as regionalization of services — obtained approval from three town bodies, most recently from the Representative Town Meeting.
Now, it’s on to labor negotiations and planning the actual layout of the building.
Fairfield Police Chief Chris Lyddy said that police were hoping to execute the lease with the university on Wednesday and then “begin to plan the build.”
“Our current ‘go live’ date is Jan. 1, 2020,” Lyddy said.
Fairfield’s emergency communications center, which connects to fire, medical and police services, is located in the basement of the police department that just so happens to be a flood zone. That same center has been up and running since 1990 and the equipment is nearing the end of its lifetime, Lyddy has said.
Over in Westport, the town has two dispatch centers: one at police headquarters, another at the fire department.
Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas said that they’re all good to go — town bodies have secured the funding months ago — and that labor unions are currently in negotiations as the two towns also discuss operating costs and how these will be split.
“Our funding is already in place,” Koskinas said. “At this point there are some labor issues to be worked out, especially with multiple unions that do the same job.”
The Representative Town Meeting approved $2,897,276 in a bond resolution slated for costs regarding the establishment and operation of the joint dispatch center at Sacred Heart University.
The $2.8 million are set to cover capital costs relating to information technology and renovations.
The university is leasing the space, the first floor of the East Building at 3135 Easton Turnpike, to the town for 12.5 years at an annual rate of $1 per year. The center used to be the former General Electric’s communications office.
At the Board of Finance meeting, Deputy Chief Donald Smith said that the police department is expecting $50,000 in savings a year in comparison to the current dispatch center costs that, according to the town budget, are currently at $1.6 million this fiscal year.
In an agreement, the joint dispatch center would be under operational control of the town of Fairfield and operational costs would be split with Westport covering one-third and Fairfield the remaining amount.
The Board of Selectmen and Finance approved the $2.8 million bonding resolution at their respective meetings earlier this year.
“We’re very excited, this should really be happening all over the state to provide better service in this fiscal situation,” Koskinas said. “To get better service at a better cost, I can’t come up with something better than that.”