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Regional Dispatch Center Would Save Tewksbury $350K A Year

Jul 23, 2015 05:14PM ● By Bill Gilman

Tewksbury Police Department.

Tewksbury stands to save nearly $350,000 per year by combining with three neighboring communities on a regional dispatch facility.
Town Manager Richard Montuori updated the Board of Selectmen on negotiations with officials from Lowell, Chelmsford and Dracut on a plan that would merge all emergency dispatch services in a central local location.
Originally, nine communities had been involved in the regionalization discussions but five of them have dropped out, said Montuori.
According to Montuori, communities would be assessed a share of the costs associated with running the regional dispatch based on a percentage of calls that community generates. It's estimated that Tewksbury's share would be 13.9 percent. The move would slash dispatch costs for Tewksbury by roughly 50 percent.
"Presently, our dispatch costs are $694,383 per year. That would be reduced to (an estimated) $346,067. That's a savings of a little over $348,000 a year," he said. "The total savings for all four towns would be over a million dollars a year."
According to Montuori, Tewksbury Dispatch is presently in need of significant upgrades through would cost the town sevral hundred thousand dollars and would only cover the town for the next five years before another upgrade was needed.
Construction and equipping the regional dispatch center would be paid for through state grants.
Several issues still need to be worked out in the negotiations. At the top of the list is the make up of the independent board that would oversee the regional dispatch center. Given its assessment percentage, Lowell officials are looking for the lion's share of representation on the board.
Another issue to be worked out is the potential location of such a dispatch center. According to Montuori, one site being looked at seriously is on the grounds of the Tewksbury DPW.
As for the 13 dispatchers (one supervisor, eight full-time and four reserve) presently on the TPD roster, their role in a new regional dispatch center is somewhat up in the air. It has yet to be determined if they would all simply be transferred to the employ of regional facility, if they would be laid off by the town and have to re-apply or if some of their jobs would be eliminated in the consolidation.
"We're not sure right now. There will be more dispatchers on per shift than we have right now," said Montuori.
Bill Blakeney, president of the local AFSCME Union, which includes Dispatch, DPW, Library and clerical, said he hasn't been looped in on the discussions regarding the proposd regional dispatch center and didn't have a sense of how it would impact his members.
"We haven't been told anything about it so far. So I really can't comment," said Blakeney, adding it would be an issue the union would certainly be keeping an eye on.
Any changes to Tewksbury's dispatch operations would not be happening any time soon. According to Montuori, any agreement needs to be ratified by the council or selectmen in each community. At that point, it would take about two years to get a regional dispatch center up and running.


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