The 147-page Public Safety Plan report prepared for the town by a Florida-based firm makes no bones about it: Montville has its work cut out for it.
Among the 144 recommendations, the vast majority of which need to be implemented within three to six months and are designated as being high priority, is a complete restructuring of the way the town handles public safety – from fire and police services to ambulance and dispatch.
Municipal fire and police departments on the horizon?
The two big takeaways have got to be that the town needs to, one, create a town fire department and hire a non-resident as a professional fire administrator to oversee the fire department with its four houses, the fire marshal, dispatch, fire prevention and emergency management within six-plus months, and two, transition from the resident state trooper program to a municipal police department managed by a professional police administrator within three years.
“There is without question proof that the service requirements in the town have outgrown the current delivery models in both fire and police,” the report presented by Almont Associates, concluded.
Almont said that the town needs to create the Town of Montville Fire Department “as recognized in the Town Charter.” And while it praises the volunteer fire departments (Mohegan, Montville, Oakdale, Chesterfield), the consulting firm – which interviewed fire chiefs, firefighters, police officers and town officials among others -- concluded that among other issues, staffing is problematic. For example, Almont says, “none of the fire departments were able to provide accurate data to support what their available staffing was of qualified interior firefighters (the only firefighters qualified to go inside a burning building).”
In reference to the police force, Almont says Montville has outgrown the Resident State Trooper program, which was created for towns without police forces, which Montville has. The town paid almost $144, 000 for the resident state trooper in 2011 and the consultant suggests the town would be better served with a professional police chief. Almont shares its “concern” about the elected mayor being not only in charge of human resources and the town’s chief contract negotiator, but being its chief of police as well. Almont strongly recommends the town transition to a municipal police department managed by a professional police administrator.
The consultant praises the fire marshal but says in no uncertain terms that there’s far too much being taken on by one individual. It also urges the town to create a comprehensive fire sprinkler ordinance – and soon. And there's myriad suggestions for how to see police, fire and emergency calls dispatched with an eye on the town's goal to house a regional dispatch. In this area, the town has its work cut out for it starting with the need for a solid plan.
High priority recommendations (this list is not all inclusive):
- Immediately remove firefighter personal protective equipment from living spaces. This practice is unsafe (“byproducts of fire left on gear is unhealthy to firefighters.”) and is strongly discouraged by national fire safety regulations.
- Establish monthly chief meetings immediately.
- Create two full-time ambulance companies with career firefighters within three months.
- Establish contracts with the four volunteer fire departments for fire and medical services within six months.
- Conduct an audit of technical rescue training of all firefighters within three months.
- Establish a plan of action to inform the public on the importance of creating a municipal police department.
- Create a municipal police department.
- Establish and follow a chain of command.
- Increase training budget for firearms
- Work toward accreditation.
- ID training associated with an organized police department.
- Purchase a training database program to track reports.
- Develop a five-year police department capital plan and staffing plan.
- Focus on animal control including uniforms, training, pay increases, and budget line items for equipment.
- Reduce fire marshal workload to fire marshal/emergency management only.
- Establish contracts with disaster-related vendors.
- Create emergency management exercise calendar.
- Expand fire website, increase public information/education.
- Immediately eliminate the ability of dispatchers to mute-out police radio.
- Immediately have fire dispatchers input police call information into system.
- Require a radio plan within three months.
- Consider the “current service and perception” of Montville dispatching.
- Require a five-year regional consolidation plan.
- A regional dispatch feasibility study within three months.
- Create a dispatch consolidation foundation document with regional partners within six months.
- Create an inventory of all dispatch equipment within six months.
And finally, within a year, establish a town-wide funding plan for fire and ambulance service, a town-wide tax relief and pension plan for firefighters and an IRS audit of each fire department.
The report is now in the hands of the Public Safety Commission and the Town Council for action.