Published January 31. 2013 4:00AM
Nothing drives up municipal expenses faster, or drives taxpayers to distraction more readily, than the waste of duplicated services.
Yet for decades, most small towns, in the guise of maintaining independence, have clung to a patchwork of separate and often overlapping departments.
We no longer can afford such inefficient profligacy, and this newspaper therefore applauds Wednesday's decision by Waterford, East Lyme and New London to look into the possibility of a combined dispatch center for fire, police and emergency medical services.
"We have to recognize that there are efficiencies to be had in services and there is an economic focus as well," said First Selectman Daniel Steward of Waterford, where the facility would be based. He joined East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica and New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio in announcing the planned partnership.
This isn't the first time such a venture has been considered. Early last year East Lyme and Waterford discussed the idea, but it was dropped in part because of resistance from unionized dispatchers.
East Lyme and New London dispatchers belong to unions; Waterford's do not. The three municipalities must resolve this issue for the idea to move forward.
The three towns would be able to save money by hiring fewer dispatchers and by receiving annual funds from the state. And, the leaders say, residents would be better served by an upgraded center.
We are encouraged by Wednesday's development and hope it leads to future partnerships involving education, police and highway services.