CMED trying to chart a new course forward [New Haven Register, Conn. :: ]
(New Haven Register (CT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 13--NORTH HAVEN -- The struggling South Central Connecticut Regional Emergency Communications System, currently moving forward on a month-to-month basis, is asking members to give it a hard answer on whether they will remain by Oct. 1.
Any municipalities that choose not to remain members will be able to continue service through Dec. 31 and the regional dispatching cooperative plans to move forward on Jan. 1, 2015, with a new model that focuses only on the three core services that most municipalities want.
The three core services are medical "patching" to connect accident scenes to hospitals, mutual aid and mass casualty coordination. Focusing just on them has enabled CMED to implement an across-the-board 30 percent cut in fees.
The new deadlines came out of a meeting of the CMED Board of Directors Tuesday in the offices of the South Central Regional Council of Governments. They were put forward by West Haven Mayor Ed O'Brien, chairman of a subcommittee comprised of municipal officials and fire chiefs that is trying to chart a course forward for CMED South Central.
O'Brien and Rick Fontana, proxy for New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, both said their cities are prepared to remain with CMED, at least for the near future, even though their respective legislative bodies already have voted to withdraw.
"There still is a large degree of uncertainty," said North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda, who is the new CMED board chairman, replacing Bethany First Selectwoman Derrylyn Gorski, who remains on the board as a member.
"We've had a lot of communities that have been quite upfront with us and said they are looking into other options," Freda said.
CMED leaders also are discussing the possibility of a new member coming on board: Yale-New Haven Hospital, which, along with its St. Raphael campus, is the destination for many, although not all, of the medical patients transported in the area that CMED covers.
Other hospitals covered by CMED include the Veterans Affairs medical center in West Haven, Griffin Hospital in Derby, Milford Hospital, MidState Medical Center in Meriden and Yale-New Haven Shoreline Medical Center in Guilford.
"I think we're at the point with Yale where we need to know Yale's financial commitment," said Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove.
O'Brien said he planned to meet soon with Yale-New Haven officials to discuss that issue.
Freda said Yale-New Haven is considering contributing to help CMED upgrade its dispatching technology, including hardware and software.
"I don't think they are considering help on the operational side," Freda said. But whatever Yale-New Haven contributes could offset costs for the communities that choose to remain.
O'Brien said the subcommittee's estimate is that it would cost $709,000 to modernize CMED, which has aging technology, including $100,000 for hardware, $300,000 for software and $309,000 for information technology service.
CMED currently only has $500,000 in its capital reserve fund, he said.
Several officials said at various times that members need to get a better idea of what each community's financial commitment would be in order to make decisions on whether to remain with South Central CMED or seek to join another CMED operation.
Ansonia and Derby already have voted to sever ties with South Central CMED and negotiate to move fire dispatching activities that had been done by South Central CMED to Northwest CT Public Safety Communication Center Inc., based in Prospect.
Jared Heon, chief of Ansonia Rescue Medical Services, said those decisions were made, however, based on the decision to focus only on the three core services and the belief that CMED would not be able to provide additional dispatching services after laying off several dispatchers.
But Heon said he has heard "that Yale may want us to go beyond the core services."
The Valley communities and Bethany, which had used CMED as its 911 dispatcher as well as its fire dispatcher, remain at the table until they see exactly what shape the new South Central CMED will take.
CMED South Central, a system in place since 1977, connects emergency medical personnel to ambulance companies and area hospitals for an 18-town area stretching from Milford in the west to Madison in the east and Meriden in the north.
But New Haven and West Haven officials say that much of what it does is obsolete, as is its equipment, and, using computer-aided dispatching systems, they now can "cut out the middleman" and do much of what it does themselves.
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