By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Westborough – At the Sept. 13 Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Fire Chief Patrick Purcell gave a presentation regarding permanently centralizing dispatch in a single location for both Fire and Police departments. This is an opportunity for the town to create efficiency and decrease dispatch time for 911 and Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD). The possibility of creating a centralized dispatch location came about organically by the relocating of the Police Department during renovations to the Forbes Municipal Building. Purcell asked for the board’s support for this article at the upcoming Town Meeting in October.
“Call volume, as well as operational challenges, have made this the right move,” Purcell said.
Turn-out time will improve by removing the middle steps between a 911 call being made for an ambulance which are directed to UMass for EMD dispatching. Cell phone calls go to the State Police before being transferred back to Westborough. The issue is having firefighters as well as police officers and supervisors serve as dispatchers rather than having dedicated dispatching staff.
This article, if passed, will improve professionalism, efficiency and response time. The time could not be better, according to Purcell. Fire and police calls are on the rise with an increase of approximately 10 percent for police and 28 percent for fire.
The cost of a centralized dispatch center is estimated to cost $331,505 as opposed to the $292,000 spent on firefighters and police officers covering emergency calls. The tradeoff is improved response time and providing an efficient higher quality service to the town.
“I am hesitant to recommend increases in permanent spending unless there is a true benefit to the community,” Town Manager Jim Malloy said. “I believe that centralizing emergency dispatch justifies the additional expense.”
The Police Department receives an annual support grant of $45,742 from the Massachusetts State 911 Department. The Public Safety Communications Center would use this to offset maintenance of equipment.
Selectman Leigh Emery asked about the Police Department’s support. Police Chief Alan Gordon replied: “I fully support this, I would have liked to have seen this when the possibility of a public safety building was talked about….Now is the time to do this.”
“It’s about saving lives and helping our residents and clearly doing what’s best for this community,” added Selectmen Chair Ian Johnson.
The board agreed that they would support the article.