LEICESTER, Mass — As Leicester considers joining its police, fire and EMS dispatching with Worcester's Regional Dispatch Center to cut costs, some residents are concerned that the move could cause Leicester 911 calls to get lost in the shuffle of city emergencies.
Residents spoke out against the proposed change at the selectmen's meeting Monday. Concerns included the risk of locking the doors of the current Leicester Police Station and how to lock up prisoners in an unmanned station, as well as whether it would be harder to get Leicester calls through to dispatch while sharing lines with the second largest city in New England.
Worcester has 58 dispatch staff, with an increase based on the number of communities that participate in the regionalization agreement.
Still, some residents said getting through to Worcester 911 has been difficult in the past.
"Worcester does not respond to phone calls," said Leicester resident Jim DiCentes. "They don't answer the phone most of the time, and they'll put you on hold during emergencies."
Though Police Chief Jim Hurley says the decision on regionalization is difficult, he said the police department is in a dire financial situation.
"The bottom line is the police department's budget right now is $600 less than it was in 2009, my costs in personnel have increased four times over four years, costs are going up, we have eight part-time police officers on layoff and we have an unfilled position as a full-time officer approaches retirement," said Hurley.
But his No. 1 concern was ensuring that jobs were waiting for Leicester's dispatchers, he said.
Although the agreement would allow spots for Leicester's four full-time employees at the dispatch center, their salaries and benefits would not carry over.
"We have our own collective bargaining union," said David Clemens, director of Worcester Emergency Communications. "What we can do and what we've done in the past is if someone comes to us with experience, we're able to adjust salary from entry level to something that's proportionally higher. But with benefits, seniority and everything, our dispatchers have a collective bargaining agreement now, so that's what they'd be entered into."
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