Public Safety and Security Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-312

Title:

AN ACT MANDATING THE REGIONALIZATION OF PUBLIC SAFETY EMERGENCY TELECOMMUNICATION CENTERS.

Vote Date:

3/9/2010

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/4/2010

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Public Safety and Security Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

Sen. Stillman initiated this bill to provide funding to those municipalities that have formed regional emergency telecommunications centers.

Substitute Language: Date change on line 22 and line 86. Added Section 3 – A Study to be Conducted by the Office of State-Wide Emergency Telecommunications. See LCO No. 2167.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

John a. Danaher III, Commissioner, Department of Public Safety (DPS), State of CT.

While the public policy goal of regionalization is laudable, DPS has two concerns with the proposed bill: 1) Currently, municipalities of populations exceeding 40,000 use a single Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) system for all services and receive funding from the Office of Statewide Emergency Telecommunications (OSET), using formulas comparable to that for regional centers. These municipalities realize the efficiencies of regionalization by virtue of their size. The bill's requirement that towns join in regional centers, therefore, penalizes the present 22 funded municipalities. 2) OSET is funded entirely from the 9-1-1 surcharge on phone bills. The surcharge, subject to a 50 cent statutory cap, and is now at 47 cents, leaves no flexibility for new obligations for the 9-1-1 fund.

Leonard H. Guercia, Chief Operating Officer, Department of Public Health, State of CT.

Connecticut has many small, low volume emergency communications centers that are costly and inefficient. Combining resources would improve efficiency, reduce costs, and improve the quality of the service provided.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Rep. Debralee Hovey, 125th, House of Representatives, State of CT.

The strong points of the bill include: its impact on improved safety through faster response times; its increased efficiency of resources; and the boost in monies saved by municipalities. Similar measures have been adopted in other states and the results are encouraging.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Ted Schroll, Legislative Representative, CT State Firefighters Association.

Regionalization is a supportable concept, but there has to be a better way to encourage consolidation than one that denies the benefits of the E-911 Telecommunications Fund to towns that do not comply. An unintended consequence of this mandate could be the breakdown of Connecticut's very successful E-911 system as it exists today. The word MANDATE raises such questions as: who will pay for the infrastructure changes?; will the 911 surcharge cap be increased?; what happens to the 911 surcharge collected from a municipality that doesn't regionalize?. There are more questions and there need to be more answers.

Bob Labanara, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. (CCM).

Mandating the consolidation of municipal public safety points into regional centers, and withholding critical funds to towns that do not comply, is the absolute wrong approach –“an unnecessarily blunt stick absent any carrot.” CCM urges the committee to give the local officials discretion to determine which PSAPs work best for them and to provide, up front, the necessary funding to encourage regional consolidation.

Chiefs Anthony Salvatore and James Strillacci, Connecticut Police Chiefs Association.

Current law provides for transition grants to encourage regionalization of dispatch services.

Passage of this bill would provide a subsidy only to those towns combining dispatch with at least 2 others. Budget strapped towns have studied this concept and have learned that: 1) start-up costs are prohibitive; 2) expanded radio coverage can be exorbitant; 3) personnel savings don't necessarily materialize in small towns; and 4) assessing fair share costs is difficult. As the State looks for ways to save money, it would be more prudent to start with low-priority services; it's foolish to start with emergency dispatch.

Bart Russell, Executive Director, Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST).

The public would be better served if the committee did a thorough cost-benefit analysis of the proposed bill. Regionalizing municipal services is not a silver bullet for achieving cost savings. The current system, which allows towns to determine which public safety answering points work best for them, strikes an appropriate balance. Towns should not be forced to regionalize if it is seen as undermining public safety or increasing costs.

Marie Lausch, President of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), Local 222.

Forced wholesale regionalization of emergency services jeopardizes the public safety. Taking control away from the towns that are serviced eradicates local control and accountability. Local dispatchers, familiar with their towns geography and personnel contacts, are better able to quickly and efficiently handle the variety of situations encountered on a daily basis. The citizens of Connecticut deserve better than a Wal-Mart-ized emergency service system. Additionally, the State cannot afford to implement new regional centers and have them up and running by 2013.

Ernest Herrick, Chairperson of the 911 Commission.

Regionalization can save money for towns but it needs to be done in a way that is fair and equitable for each municipality. Not funding existing PSAPs if towns do not regionalize is not a good way to promote regionalization. Under existing law, each phone bill has an assessment on it for the 911 Emergency System. If PSAPs do not regionalize and, consequently, do not receive funds, the phone bills in these towns would still be assessed the 911 surcharge but without any benefit. Further study is warranted.

Jeffrey Otto, representing The Regional Emergency Communications Centers Association of Connecticut (RECCA).

There is little doubt that Regional Emergency Communications Centers save money and that an integrated system of statutes, regulations, and financial incentives can create one of the leading E-911 systems in the nation. Passage of SB 312, however, will completely disrupt the funding of the current system because it does not allow for a needed increase in the 50 cent capped surcharge. RECCA urges the committee to withdraw the current bill and focus its efforts, instead, on raising the surcharge maximum to $1.00 per instrument per month. Other states run maximum surcharges as high as $3.00/month. The State cannot effectively respond to its emergency needs if it is hampered by an overly conservative surcharge ceiling.

Matthew C. Odishoo, Emergency Management Director and Deputy Fire Marshal, Town of Berlin, CT.

Regionalizing dispatch centers is advantageous for some communities but is not a viable option for others. Local dispatchers, having a better understanding of the town's operating procedures, resources and contacts, may be more effective in providing an accurate and timely response to both routine and emergency situations. The management of issues presented by adopting regionalization may require the hiring of additional personnel which leads to additional costs for the towns to bear.

Reported by: Madeline Grabinski

Date: March 18, 2010