USCG to team up with county sheriff

Station Menemsha Coasties to staff sheriff’s communications center.

Aaron Figueroa, whose been training in the comm center since September, answers incoming calls on New Year's Eve. — Gabrielle Mannino

Personnel from Station Menemsha will be working in the Dukes County Communications Center by next summer, according to Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden and Station Menemsha Commander Justin Longval.

The Coasties will fill a staffing deficit at the communications center that saw only seven qualified people working there when, according to Sheriff Ogden, a minimum of 11 is necessary. Because he had so few people to use this summer, Ogden said the Communications Center was “drastically handicapped.” As a result, he was forced to implement mandatory 12-hour shifts during the summer season to deal with the uptick in call volume.

“It’s unprecedented,” Ogden said, describing the budding arrangement as a “win-win,” with the communications center receiving much-needed coverage and Island Coasties getting extra money to cover the high cost of living on the Vineyard, as well as marketable training for the future.

The members of the Coast Guard won’t receive benefits. They will be contractual employees paid $28 per hour, according to a document that sets out the parameters of the jobs.

Coasties will receive off-Island training as dispatchers and telecommunicators, and the sheriff’s office will pick up the tab for that training, Ogden said.

“He’s [Longval] already got three or four people lined up to be contract employees,” Ogden said.

Longval characterized the developing partnership as “unique,” and a great opportunity for his personnel to work closely with local law enforcement and to gain valuable skills.

He also said he understood the acute shortage of qualified people to staff the communications center, and was proud the station could help serve the community with some of its staff.

Ogden said the Martha’s Vineyard Law Enforcement Commission, where he was introduced to Longval, was the catalyst for the cooperative initiative. The commission consists of the sheriff and the six Island police chiefs, and meets monthly. At the meetings, the chiefs and the sheriff review Island law enforcement issues and engage in collaborative problem-solving, Ogden said.

“It’s very active and very effective on the Island,” he said.

The sheriff said joining forces with the Coast Guard will be transformative for the communications center.

“It’s so exciting. It’s going to be a game-changer,” he said.