By Katina Caraganis
ASHBY — Selectman Dan Meunier said Thursday forming a regional dispatch is still an option, despite a 2-1 vote last month not to move forward with a plan to merge Ashby’s dispatch center with neighboring Ashburnham.
“It’s inevitable that regionalization is going to happen. Whether it’s with Ashburnham or Devens or wherever it will go, it’s going to happen,” he said.
Ashby and Ashburnham had jointly applied for a grant through the state 911 program that would allow for updated equipment and other amenities without losing personnel. Some selectmen in Ashby, however, felt there were still too many unanswered questions.
Ashby and Ashburnham officials previously signed letters of interest to attach to the grant application, which sought for $358,870.55 to begin the project. Of that, $50,000 would be allocated for project-management services, while the remaining $308,870.55 would be for the equipment.
However, the towns only received $250,000 to put toward the project. Meunier said the state asked both towns to reconsider the decision not to move forward.
For Meunier, one of the main sticking points was that each town uses a different dispatch software.
Ashby police officers said that they believed data from their own software would not transfer to Ashburnham as easily as everyone thought it would.
“Doug (Briggs, Ashburnham town administrator) asked me if one of the reasons was software, would I be interested in having people from IMC, which is the software program Ashburnham uses, come up and give a demo,” Meunier said.
The workshop was scheduled for last week.
Officer Derek Pepple said that before a decision is made on whether to convert to a new system, Pamet, the one in operation in Ashby, needs to be looked at, too.
“My feeling is they’re looking at IMC’s software but yet they aren’t looking at the software we already have,” said Pepple, who has never worked with IMC before.
“In speaking with officers who have worked with both systems, they’re saying that Pamet is more user-friendly. Before the selectmen make an educated decision about this, I want them to look at everything.”
Meunier said he and the other selectmen need to keep all their options open.
“It’s human nature. If you’re comfortable with what you know, then why change it,” he said. Had there been no discussion of regionalization, he added, converting to IMC would not even be considered now.
“I didn’t know about it before. It brought something forward so why not look at it? Now that it’s been brought to our attention, we can look at it and decide if it’s really great,” he said. “The software was the sticking point with the officers. I don’t want to put our officers in harm’s way just to save a couple bucks. I want officers to have everything possible.”
Ultimately, Meunier said the board must look at the best decision for everyone.
“We have to take ourselves out of it and really look at what is the best decision. There’s no way you’re going to please everyone,” he said.