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Conn. legislators act on EMS staff’s call for new public safety complex

EMS staff in Enfield pressed their need for a proper facility with adequate bathrooms, changing rooms and space for ambulances

Journal Inquire

ENFIELD, Conn. — Police Chief Alaric Fox and EMS Chief Erin Riggott were able to express their appreciation to the state for its financial support on Friday morning when Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz spent time with them at the police department and heard about the needs of both public safety divisions.

Bysiewicz, along with town officials and Enfield’s Republican legislators Rep. Carol Hall and Sen. John A. Kissel, walked through the station and listened to a video made by EMS staff last year that details deficiencies in the facility.

Currently, the EMS department is housed in a former firehouse where the bays can’t hold all the ambulances, medication is not stored in a climate-controlled environment, bathrooms aren’t adequate, male and female staff have to take turns changing clothes on one side of an ambulance, and there is not enough space for training required by law.

Therefore, Town Manager Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said, the project’s first priority and project phase is getting EMS into a better situation. “Now that we have initial funding secured, we will name a building committee and get started evaluating how best to phase this project with the available funds,” she said. “We will need to see how the $5.2 million can best be utilized for this first phase.”

The police department is also in dire need of repairs, Fox said, along with updates and additional space to accommodate all the work that takes place in the department. There’s a leak in the roof that must be fixed and the female police officers need their own locker room, he said.

There are new laws that require increased training, department personnel have said. Officials have said a larger training facility will be a benefit for in-house training sessions instead of sending officers all over the state. The facility could host larger groups where officers from other towns would pay to attend, generating revenue for the town.

At this time, officials are no longer sure of the precise cost to build a new public safety complex, given that the work will be in phases. “Phasing in the project makes sense because of the various costs associated with building materials,” said Town Council member Ken Nelson, who serves as the minority leader. “And this is a great example of bipartisanship working to get things done.”

Bysiewicz said a large number of communities in Connecticut are looking to update their public safety facilities. There’s a balance, she said, that Gov. Ned Lamont has to measure between how much it can spend with all the needs throughout the state.

Officials said they are thankful for the support the state has given to Enfield.

“We are so excited to get this project started,” Mayor Bob Cressotti said. “We had to work through a lot of layers and have a lot of conversations.”

Cressotti said he particularly wants to thank Bysiewicz for her work over the last year. Bysiewicz grew up in Middletown but her maternal grandparents, who emigrated from Greece, settled in the Thompsonville section of Enfield, where her grandfather worked for Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Co. for 50 years.

“Her family roots in Thompsonville have made her a strong advocate for our town and we appreciate it,” Cressotti said.

Riggot, speaking on behalf of the EMS department, thanked the Bond Commission. “This project will vastly improve the delivery of emergency medical services in our community,” she said.

“Our phase of the expansion will enhance our police services to this community, including workspace for a dedicated department social worker and other positions that were not anticipated when this department was built over 30 years ago, as well as improved training and classroom facilities,” Fox said. He said partnerships between the state and its towns have the power to be transformative.

“With this funding the town will be able to make a critically needed investment in a public safety complex, making the community even safer and providing their first responders with an updated structure,” Bysiewicz said.

(c)2023 Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn.
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