For a couple of years, Southborough selectmen have discussed the potential for regionalizing the police and fire dispatch center. In the past, the possibility appeared to be remote. According to the Community Advocate’s coverage, it’s now getting a more serious look thanks to looming expenses and state funding priorities.
In past discussions, selectmen indicated hope Southborough’s Public Safety Building could be a communications center with cost sharing by other Towns. It appears that it is more likely a regional dispatch would be hosted elsewhere.
So, why consider it? While the facility is just two years old, apparently the technology is in need of big upgrades.
Here are highlights from the CA’s coverage:
Selectmen recently advised Town Administrator Mark Purple to work with Southborough’s police and fire chiefs to gather more information about the possibility of pursuing a regional dispatch center to handle emergency management needs.
At the August 17 meeting, board members emphasized that they are at the start of the process, so they can weigh the pros and cons of the option before making a commitment to go further.
Fire Chief Steven Achilles said the state has earmarked $22 million for projects as a result of its “very strong interest” in locating regional dispatch centers in the MetroWest area.
Regardless of whether Southborough participates or not, Achilles said the town is facing upgrades of technology at its communication center that will come with a “hefty price tag.”
Southborough could end up competing for state funds against regional centers, so it’s a good time to explore the alternative, he said.
Achilles noted that Westborough, Marlborough and Grafton have expressed an interest in regional dispatch. If such a center was created to include Southborough, it would house eight departments—fire and police—from each of those communities. . .
Purple said a regional center would likely be a “stand-alone facility” located outside of town. Before he committed to exploring anything, he wanted to be certain the selectmen were on board with that possibility.
“Once you make the commitment to go into a regional [center], you can’t go back,” Purple said.
Chief Paulhus said that he needs to gather more information before deciding whether he’s in favor of the idea.
“It’s becoming the wave of the future,” he said. “There are problems with it, but I want to hear what they have to say…It’s evolving. My ears are open.”
The police chief said Southborough’s current dispatch operation needs to expand “sooner rather than later.”
He noted that the town’s system has been operating with one dispatcher per shift. It does not cover the 24-hour model.
For the full CA story, click here.
When selectmen discussed the concept last summer, Town Administrator Mark Purple noted that when Towns discuss regionalizing they generally hope to be the host. He explained that for those not hosting, there is a lot to consider. Two big issues relate to staffing and public interactions at the building. At that time, he posed, would you have someone in need talking to a video monitor or would you staff the window? He also noted that a lot of the dispatch staff is responsible for monitoring jail cells. If you eliminate that staff, you could then be paying a police officer at overtime rates to do that.
You can read more of my coverage of that 2020 discussion here.