Information Session to be Held in January, Office Hours to be Scheduled to Encourage Public Input
HOPKINTON — Town Manager Norman Khumalo wishes to provide the community with an update on the Town’s efforts to research the feasibility of regionalizing emergency dispatch operations.
A final report of the feasibility study, conducted by the third party Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at UMass Boston, was shared at the Sept. 20 Hopkinton Select Board meeting.
The study ultimately found that seven towns in the region would be well-suited to establish a Regional Emergency Communication Center (RECC) and that regionalization could offer multiple operational and financial benefits. Among these benefits are standardized dispatch protocols and training, new and standardized equipment, more personnel for surges in 911 calls, and enhanced interoperability with mutual aid municipalities. The full report can be viewed here.
The Collins Center recently completed an addendum to the feasibility study regarding staffing, equipment, facility sites and costs. The RECC currently being evaluated as part of the addendum would regionalize emergency dispatch operations for four towns: Hopkinton, Grafton, Southborough and Westborough. The addendum, which was shared at the Dec. 6 Select Board meeting, can be viewed here.
“As fire chief, it is my sworn duty to provide the best service to the residents and visitors of the Town of Hopkinton,” said Fire Chief William Miller. “A regional dispatch center would help bring our department’s communications to the next level. A RECC would allow for multiple fire telecommunicators working at one time, and for those telecommunicators to focus on effective call-taking, emergency responses and resource allocation, using state-of-the-art technology. We work closely with the proposed RECC towns, which would also enhance our mutual aid system and standardize protocols in the region. A RECC would help us to collaborate with neighboring municipalities to provide these core services as efficiently as possible.”
As part of due diligence in considering regionalization, Town officials and members of the Select Board will visit other RECCs in the state to learn about their operations.
The communities are also working to address a primary concern of regionalization, which is unstaffed “dark stations” during non-business hours. Should the Town of Hopkinton move forward with dispatch regionalization, the police department would remain open to the public at all times.
“The continued safety, well-being and comfort of our community is our primary goal, and we want to reassure residents that police department services would be maintained at the high level they have become accustomed to,” Police Chief Joseph Bennett said. “We realize the importance and value of 24/7 access to public safety services, and should the Town proceed with a RECC, the Hopkinton Police Department will always remain open to the public and will not go ‘dark’.”
The Town values public input, and is making opportunities available for community members to ask questions, share comments and express concerns. A public informational session will be held on Jan. 4, 2023 from 6-8 p.m. at the Hopkinton Senior Center, 28 Mayhew St.
Office hours at Hopkinton Town Hall will also be scheduled for residents to ask questions about a potential RECC. The dates and times will be shared when they become available.
Information and future updates regarding the potential RECC project can be found on the town’s website, here. Residents who wish to provide comments or feedback can email email@example.com.
“The Town continues to do our due diligence in evaluating whether dispatch regionalization is suitable for our community, and an important part of this process is to hear from our residents. We hope that residents will take advantage of the information session and office hours to ask questions and allow us to address concerns,” Town Manager Khumalo said. “Overall, our main goal at the conclusion of this process is to maintain the high level of emergency communications services that our first responders and community members expect and deserve.”
Added Communications Director Meaghan DeRaad, “As we move forward we will work diligently to find the answers we need in order to support the best decision for the community.”
Further analysis of potential RECC facility locations will be completed by the Collins Center. The sites currently being considered are the Center School in Hopkinton and the Harvey Building in Westborough.
If the Select Boards of all four communities choose to proceed with regionalizing dispatch services, an Intermunicipal Agreement between the communities would be signed. A potential RECC would also be eligible for grant funding from the State 911 Department.