Ashby, Pepperell, Townsend study regional dispatch center

Ashby, Pepperell, Townsend study regional dispatch center

ASHBY — Ashby is part of a trio of towns that are pursuing state grant money to study the feasibility of forming a regional emergency dispatch center.

“The state has been putting pressure on small towns to put services together,” said Mark Haines, chairman of the Ashby Board of Selectmen.

Pepperell, which approached Ashby with the idea of regionalization, and Townsend would be part of the communications center.

Ashby’s selectmen signed a letter of support Wednesday and approved an application to the state District Local Technical Assistance program to receive grant money for a feasibility study.

That study would look into the cost, staffing and equipment for a regional dispatch center.

Currently, Ashby manages its own dispatch with some state money, Haines said, but it’s unclear how much longer that funding will be available.

Another motivation for considering a regional system is the high cost of up-to-date communications equipment.

“It makes sense because of the rising costs of dispatching in a small town,” Haines said.

Selectmen in Townsend and Pepperell have already signed letters of support for the grant.

“We’re just looking to expedite the process and get this going,” Pepperell Communications Director David Stairs told the board at its Jan. 28 meeting.

Each of the communities needed approval to move forward with the grant, which is due in March, he said.

Pepperell was poised to join the North Middlesex Regional Emergency Communications Center in Tewksbury in 2017, but due to a lack of public support and after members of law enforcement spoke out, the Board of Selectmen terminated the agreement.

Last year, the town approached Ashby with the idea of having a regional dispatch center based in Pepperell.

Ashby suggesting bringing Townsend into the discussions. All three communities already belong to the same school district, North Middlesex Regional.

Townsend is part of the Nashoba Valley Regional Emergency Communications Center, based in Devens, and had to petition the State 911 Department about getting out of its contract with the other center.

Representatives from the three towns have been meeting monthly through a committee formed to discuss a regionalized dispatch center.

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