Selectmen support using $308K in mitigation funds to upgrade police/fire dispatch center

Above: The current dispatch center used by the police and fire departments was installed in the 1980’s (photo from the Southborough Police Department)

When the 140-unit Madison Place apartment complex off Route 9 was approved earlier this summer, the developer agreed to pay the town $338K in mitigation funds to offset the impact the project will have on the town. At their meeting last night selectmen discussed using $308K of the funds to upgrade the police and fire department’s antiquated computer-aided dispatch center.

Fire Chief Joe Mauro told selectmen the police and fire department have an “immediate need” to upgrade the dispatch system located at the police station. The current system runs on old technology (MS-DOS for you geeks out there) and was originally installed back in the 1980’s.

Police Chief Jane Moran said the old system is cumbersome and inefficient, requiring officers to input information up to five times for a single arrest, a process Moran said is error-prone and time-consuming.

Mauro and Moran have their eye on a new Windows-based system that is in use by a number of surrounding towns with centralized dispatch operations like the one Southborough has, including Hudson, Marlborough, Westborough, and Ashland.

Chairman John Rooney asked Moran and Mauro what benefit the upgrade would have to the residents of Southborough. “How will spending this $300K improve police service in town?” he asked.

“(The new system) will have a tremendous beneficial impact in that it will bring us into the 21st century,” Moran said. “It will be a huge time-saver.”

“When I heard we have to enter things five times, to me that works against good police and good fire work,” Rooney said.

Moran also said the new system will allow them to share information more easily with state agencies and other departments, as well as enhance their ability to do scheduling and accounting down the road.

The new system is estimated to cost $339K. Mauro said the department may ask to use money donated by Harvard Medical School and earmarked for public safety to supplement the mitigation funds.

The new system would take about six months to implement, Moran said, and would require careful planning.

All three selectmen expressed their general support for using the mitigation funds to upgrade the dispatch center, but said they wanted to see more detailed plans once they are available.

The town has not yet received any of the mitigation funds promised by the Madison Place developer. The payments will come in three installments, and Selectman Bill Boland said the first $100K is expected soon.

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