Here’s one I’ve been meaning to post for a while now. Earlier this year, Fire Chief John Mauro Jr. and Police Chief Jane Moran went before the Board of Selectmen to float the idea of sharing police and fire dispatch services with neighbors Ashland and Hopkinton as a way to cut down on costs.
The state has been encouraging towns to explore regionalized services, and Southborough Town Administrator Jean Kitchen told Selectmen there are grants available that would enable them to do a feasibility study.
Mauro said centralizing services with Ashland and Hopkinton — towns we already have a mutual aid agreement with — would not be trivial, but it was “worth looking into.”
The selectmen agreed. “I don’t see a downside in going ahead with the study,” Selectman Sal Giorlandino said.
Mauro said a centralized dispatch center could help the town provide emergency medical dispatch (EMD) services in which a trained staff member stays on the phone and provides medical instruction until help arrives. It’s a service the department can’t always provide now due to staffing constraints.
Moran said centralizing dispatch services might prove more challenging for the police department than for the fire department. At the police station the officer who handles 911 calls also does clerical work, answers non-emergency phone calls, and greets walk-in visitors. Eliminating that position might mean having to close the police station during certain hours.
“I’m concerned about the public going to police station and not finding anyone there,” Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf said. “Southborough residents’ expectations are higher than other communities.”
“There would be a lot of questions that would need to be answered,” Moran said.
I’m all for studying this, but there have been other studies paid for by the Town, regarding Public Safety issues. The recommendations of those studies have never been truly followed. If we are going to spend money on a dispatch study, I would really like to see the Town follow the recommendations that we are paying for.
Regarding Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf ‘s comment: “I’m concerned about the public going to police station and not finding anyone there,” said. “Southborough residents’ expectations are higher than other communities.”
I’m disappointed that Bonnie seems to be afraid of change in Southborough. Perhaps someone with an open mind would approach this by asking the Police Chief to identify exactly what functions require an officer to be in that building 24 x 7. Let’s all understand that a good portion of the time, the only police employee in the building is the dispatcher who is often a civilian employee and NOT a police officer.
Currently if a person visits the police department after 4 pm, and really needs to speak with a police officer, they use the radio to call a police officer! I’ve been there after hours and 99% of the time I was instructed to return during the day.
Couldn’t we just put an emergency phone on the wall outside at the police department and have it ring at the dispatch center? If someone really needed to speak with a police officer, they could drive to the central facility or an officer would be dispatched.
It seems we could easily solve this. Administrative functions would be handled on the day shift – OR – they could be moves and consolidated at the town house. Really – most of the police admin stuff doesn’t need to be handled by a sworn officer.
Does a police officer really need to be the person to accept an accident report?
Did you know the forms can be downloaded from the Internet and you can send them via mail to police agencies?
Does a police officer really need to be the person to take fingerprints and a photo from the public for a firearms ID application? They city of Boston uses a civilian for this function.
As for Bonnie’s comment “Southborough residents’ expectations are higher than other communities”, that’s nonsense. Pure nonsense. Southborough resident, like people everywhere, want an effective and responsive police department at a reasonable cost. This “higher expectations nonsense” is just a ruse to let the BOS have yet another study and avoid making hard decisions.
Our town is living beyond its means and we need the BOS to be aggressive and creative about cutting expenses.
If Bonnie and the BOS (now that could be the name of a swing band) are having such a tentative time with issue, imagine what would happen if someone suggested they take a hard look at privatizing the ambulance function of the Fire Department! I’ll bet we could save several hundred thousands of dollars there!