Proposal would link Pepperell, Townsend and Ashby in regional dispatch

Proposal would link Pepperell, Townsend and Ashby in regional dispatch

Less than a year after withdrawing from an agreement to join a regional public-safety dispatch center in Tewksbury, Pepperell is exploring options to create one with Ashby and Townsend.

A dispatch center in town makes sense because the three communities already work together, said Pepperell Communications Director David Stairs.

“When you’re a local, small town and have an incident with separate dispatch centers, it doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Regionalization would also help keep dispatch operations in Pepperell and make the center eligible for state grant money for newer communications equipment, which can be expensive for towns to fund on their own, Stairs said.

Pepperell has been considering a regional center housed at the Police Department since selectmen voted in September to terminate an agreement to join the North Middlesex Regional Emergency Communications Center in Tewksbury.

Several months ago, Pepperell sent a proposal to Ashby and began discussions.

Ashby Town Administrator Bob Hanson said the town is weighing the pros and cons.

Trends toward regionalization and an existing three-town affiliation were reasons why Ashby is discussing a partnership with Pepperell and Townsend, Hanson said.

“It seems inevitable and Ashby has to go somewhere,” he said.

Ashby suggested inviting Townsend to the conversations.

To get out of its contract with the Nashoba Valley Regional Emergency Communications Center, Townsend sent a letter of support detailing why having one with Pepperell and Ashby would be more beneficial to the town.

He mentioned that the towns are already part of the North Middlesex Regional School District and that they help each other out for mutual aid.

“With any emergency situation whether it’s police, fire, or EMS, we rely on our neighbors to help us out,” said Townsend Fire Chief Mark Boynton.

Stairs sent that letter to Frank Pozniak, executive director of the State 911 Department, and is waiting to find out if the three-town regional center can proceed.

If Townsend can’t leave the Nashoba Valley dispatch, Pepperell and Ashby will need to re-evaluate. Stairs hopes Ashby will still want to continue with a partnership.

Currently, there are three regional dispatch centers in the area.

Ayer and Shirley blended their communication operations and began operating out of the Ayer Police Department last month.

Groton police answers 911 calls for Dunstable and dispatches services.

The Nashoba Valley regional center, which formed in 2011, includes Townsend, Devens, Harvard, Lunenburg, Lancaster, Bolton, and Berlin.

Much of the state has consolidated dispatch services.

As of May 15, there are nearly 20 regional communications centers, according to a map from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, which oversees the State 911 Department.

At least five towns have pending RECCs.

Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz