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Dispatchers Plan To Voice Opposition To Regional Dispatch Center

Aug 25, 2015 04:08PM ● By Bill Gilman

Tewksbury Town Hall

Wednesday night's Board of Selectmen's meeting (7 p.m. Town Hall) may have one of the shortest agendas of the year. But that doesn't mean it will be short on passion or potential fireworks.
Topping the agenda will be an appearance by representatives from the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments, which will be discussing the proposal to create a Regional Dispatch Center for Lowell, Tewksbury, Chelmsford and Dracut. The facility is likely to be located in Tewksbury on the grounds of the DPW complex.
According to Tewksbury Town Manager Richard Montuori, the regional dispatch would save Tewksbury an estimated $348,000 a year.
However, the plan does not have universal support.
Dispatchers representing Lowell and Tewksbury and Lowell plan to attend Wednesday night's meeting and hope to be heard on the regional dispatch proposal. TJ Cooper, a dispatcher in Lowell, said veteran dispatchers could lose seniority and benefits because the plan would require them to be laid off by their municipality and re-hired by the independent board overseeing the regional dispatch center.
Cooper also says there is no guarantee that all the present dispatchers in the four communities would be re-hired for the new regional dispatch.
"We absolutely do not support this plan," she said.
Montuori has expressed his support for the plan. He said Tewksbury Dispatch is presently in need of significant upgrades through would cost the town several 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. 
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."

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