PEPPERELL -- After months of uncertainty, selectmen voted Monday to withdraw from a previous agreement to join a regional public-safety dispatch center in Tewksbury.

The board voted unanimously in April to become the third town in the North Middlesex Regional Emergency Communication Center, joining Tewksbury and Dracut. That decision was met with controversy, though, when the police and fire chiefs came out in opposition and some residents complained.

At Monday's meeting, Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Melissa Tzanoudakis and Selectman Lisa Ferolito, who was not on the board when it voted to join the regional dispatch, voted to terminate the agreement with the NMRECC.

Selectman Roland Nutter, who first suggested terminating the agreement and putting forth a ballot question about the matter in April, did not support a second motion by Ferolito that excluded the ballot question.

Selectmen and Town Administrator Mark Andrews were not immediately available for interviews Tuesday.

Tewksbury Town Manager Richard Montorui said Tuesday that Pepperell's decision "isn't a surprise" after months of unease and local pressure for Pepperell to withdraw.

However, Richard Montouri said Tewksbury and Dracut would move forward with their plan regardless of whether a third town participates.

"We were proceeding just Dracut and Tewksbury before Pepperell decided to come in anyway," Montouri said.


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"If a third town does join, that would be terrific, we'd embrace it, but we're moving on anyway."

The new center, which will be state-funded, will open in early 2019 near the Tewksbury Department of Public Works at 999 Whipple Road.

Pepperell's Board of Selectmen did not discuss future plans in detail at Monday's meeting, but indicated they would continue conversations. Tzanoudakis said recent conversations with police and fire leaders revealed a "common goal" of keeping Pepperell's dispatch operations local.

"We are exploring that as a possibility, both on a regional level and, obviously, if regional doesn't work out, keeping it here," she said at Monday's meeting. "We still have to explore the options that are out there to see if the other towns are on board."

Public-safety officials announced opposition to the regional dispatch after the board voted unanimously to support it in April. A Special Town Meeting in June, attended by about 100 residents, took a non-binding vote advising selectmen to abandon the plan.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.