Residents Find Flaws In Leicester's Regional Dispatch Plan

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Leicester residents pack the selectmen's meeting Monday night to learn how a regionalized dispatch system would affect the town.
Leicester residents pack the selectmen's meeting Monday night to learn how a regionalized dispatch system would affect the town. Photo Credit: Daniel Castro

LEICESTER, Mass. — Leicester officials continued to explore combining its police, fire and EMS dispatch with Worcester's Regional Dispatch Center project Monday night — a move that some residents believe could hurt the town more than it would help.

Leicester has successfully used regionalization with its town planning and health services, Town Administrator Robert Reed said. Now, with dispatching, it has "a particularly good deal with Worcester for the town both on entry costs and for the positions that could be available to our dispatchers."

"Considering the budget situation that we're in, this is something we can't not consider," said Reed.

At the selectmen's meeting Monday, David Clemens, director of Worcester Emergency Communications, presented a report on the project and its potential benefits for Leicester.

"I came from a small town and worked for a small town in Metro-West for 15 years, so I understand how a small town can feel about services, but a regional dispatch center does provide an enhanced level of service," said Clemens, who added that 14 regional dispatch centers currently serve 96 communities in Massachusetts.

In addition to estimated savings of $249,000, the regionalized center would allow dispatchers to be dynamically adjusted as call volume increases, preventing them from becoming overwhelmed, Clemens said.

This would give the department a dedicated dispatcher during an incident, Fire Chief Bob Wilson said.

"We've had multiple incidents where one dispatcher can't handle what goes on during a fire," he said. "I can't sit in my truck making calls to people and run a fire at the same time."

It would be difficult to go regionalization, Police Chief Jim Hurley said. But with mounting costs and a tightening department budget, he said he can't give the town the services it wants.

But moving to a regional dispatch would effectively close the doors of the Leicester Police Station to the public.

A hot-phone and camera system could be used by the regional dispatch to buzz residents into the lobby, Hurley said. 

With the challenges facing the police department, resident Ruth Kaminsky wanted to know what could be done "to maintain that police station, so that I as a citizen, when I'm a victim of road rage, can run in that front door instead of into the door because it's locked."

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This is a bad move, and empty police station is ridiculous. And if they replace dispatchers with other people, what is the cost there? Lets say no to this

Ruth Kaminsky asks a good question. I couldn't attend the meeting, but the question I would also ask is around the needs for lock up. Would Leicester now have to send people who are locked up overnight in the Police Station to Worcester and are there hidden costs there in transportation plus overnight stays?