MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - A move to consolidate all state police
dispatching and 911 services into four barracks should be completed
by the end of the year.
Middlesex dispatching will move to Williston later this summer,
and Bradford and St. Johnsbury's dispatching will go to Derby later
in the fall, Capt. James Baker said.
"Our goal is to finish off this project before winter," said
Baker, the State Police assistant field force commander in charge
of the consolidation.
Plans to consolidate the dispatching services into the
Rockingham, Rutland, Williston and Derby barracks began back in
1996.
Baker said it was too expensive to upgrade all 12 barracks'
dispatching centers with new technology.
While the state police have hailed the effort, some rescue
squads and residents have expressed concern that knowledge of
neighborhood streets will be lost when dispatching services are
moved away.
And the change also means that some barracks, such as Bethel and
Middlesex along Interstate 89, will be closed to the public in the
evening. People won't be able to go to those locations for
protection during an emergency, critics have said.
However, Baker says dispatchers are better trained and can use
sophisticated computerized mapping systems.
"I don't know of a case where services were delayed in getting
emergency personnel to a scene," he said.
Emergency stops at the barracks are also rare. "I think that's
a moot point now, with the invention of a cell phone," Baker said.
Amy Estey, administrator for White River Valley Ambulance
Service, had been an opponent of the consolidation plan.
She feared that her Bethel-based rescue squad members would
spend more time looking at a 911 map book to find an accident scene
than preparing for the emergency awaiting them there.
That has happened, she said, but said overall that the shift has
been "positive."
State police dispatchers are receiving advanced training,
including how to instruct callers on starting CPR or controlling
bleeding, said Estey, who is excited about that aspect of the
change.
Some state Police troopers also have had their own complaints
about the consolidation.
Rockingham dispatchers unfamiliar with the Bethel area don't
understand the distance between Hancock and Hartland, for example,
said Sgt. William Harkness, a Bethel patrol commander and State
Police union president.
Concern over a lack of local knowledge is one complaint Harkness
said he's getting from troopers and the community. However, those
are concerns that will be worked out over time, he said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)