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Regional Public Safety Project to Return to Voters for Funding

Barre City, along with Montpelier, is a member of the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority. Photo courtesy of CVPSA.
A regional public safety authority has decided to ask voters for additional funding in March, according to the organization’s chair, Kim Cheney. The money is necessary to complete the next phase of the work of the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority (CVPSA), drawing a roadmap to better communication for the region’s first responders.

In December, the CVPSA received three proposals from contractors to write the plan, Cheney said, and the board has reviewed them but not yet selected the contractor. The board concluded at its January 2 meeting that the work will cost $65,000 to $70,000; roughly twice the amount remaining in the CVPSA’s coffers. The board has the authority to put funding articles on the ballot in Montpelier and Barre City, and they now plan to do so for Town Meeting Day votes. Cheney said they haven’t yet settled on the amount.

The CVPSA was chartered by the Legislature in 2014 to create an “affordable, integrated, efficient system of public safety services” to member towns. Barre City and Montpelier are the only municipal members of the board, but they dispatch emergency services in many nearby towns. Capital Fire Mutual Aid System, Inc., representing the region’s fire departments, is also a member.

After the two city councils rejected CVPSA’s proposals to combine their dispatchers, most recently in 2018, the authority’s board decided to use its remaining funds to hire a consultant to map a way to improve the regional dispatch system. The current system is a Rube Goldberg arrangement that requires four dispatchers in three counties to muster police, fire, and ambulance responders to some 911 calls, and the region’s emergency responders are plagued with communication problems in the field.

After last week’s decision to move forward on the plan for better communication, board chair Cheney said studies in Chittenden County show merging dispatch services there could save up to 90 seconds of response time. “That’s a lot of time if you’re having a heart attack,” he said.

The board will continue reviewing the proposals at its next meeting, on January 16.