As part of a state mandate to streamline 911 procedures and improve response time and public safety, Sudbury will combine its police and fire dispatch centers, with an ultimate goal of housing the joint center at the by July 1, as required by the mandate.
Both Sudbury Police Chief Rick Glavin and Fire Chief Bill Miles outlined plans for the joint dispatch center at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, as part of an effort by the Board to “get a handle on (different) projects scheduled this year so (we) can prioritize what needs to get done in Sudbury,” said Board Chair Larry O’Brien.
According to Glavin, the combined dispatch center should enable both departments to overcome some “inherent delays in the current dispatch system between the two departments.” Such delays are particularly problematic for cell phone callers, who, in a scenario described by Miles, are first patched to State Police, who then patch the callers to Sudbury Police, who may then need to transfer the call once more to the .
In such an event, said Miles, callers frequently are “at minimum, aggravated, and potentially very upset or in a bad situation” while having to repeat the reason for their call several times.
Once rolled out, the joint communications center will use nine cross-trained public safety dispatchers capable of handling all police, fire and medical calls, with two on duty at all times — an increase of two to three full-time employees that Lt. Scott Nix said should improve overall communication and response times.
Currently, Nix said, both departments collectively employ five full-time and several part-time dispatchers with other hours covered “intermittently” by police officers and fire personnel. Under the proposed scenario, all nine dispatchers will receive the same level of training.
“Two dispatchers working side by side also improves the ability to dispatch” such as in situations where a dispatcher “may be trying to give medical advice or information, answering radios, telling an apparatus where to go," Nix added. "It will be more efficient and overall, a more professional operation (with two).”
While training for the dispatchers will be funded as part of the state mandates, the cost for technological upgrades could run upward of $130,000, funds Town Manager Maureen Valente said could be obtained through grants or reserve funds.
Next discussed were updates to a longstanding potential plan of renovating Town Hall to create usable office space for some town employees, which could help alleviate the “tight quarters” at and allow for continued growth of certain departments, said Valente.
Building inspector Jim Kelly said the building, built in 1931, is in “very good shape” but without updates, basic systems like plumbing and heating “will just (continue) to get old.”
According to O’Brien, the Sudbury Public Schools offices currently housed at Fairbank were “supposed to have space (there) for only a couple of years. And in the meantime, the Council on Aging and Park and Rec have continued to grow.”
The discussion wrapped with Kelly and Valente agreeing to begin a feasibility study on whether the building, as a town historical building, could undergo such a renovation.
Also updated for the Board were “green” initiatives by the Energy and Sustainability Green Ribbon Committee, who told the Board the town is well on its way to meeting a goal of reducing energy costs by 10 percent within five years of FY11.
Committee Chair Bill Braun told the Board major green initiatives such as the Noyes school repair have come about primarily through “taking advantage of grants and rebates” and have resulted in a cost savings of about $100,000.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s just the start and that amount can make a difference in terms of things like cuts in (town) staffing,” said Braun.
Braun said the group’s current priority is the proposed large-scale solar array at the landfill along Route 20, an initiative that could result in another $100,000 in savings.
A final item of note was a brief presentation by resident Carole Wolfe, a longtime opponent of the proposed Bruce Freeman Rail Trail extension, who presented a detailed report to the Board outlining the potential environmental impacts of the rail trail, which the Board agreed to review. The Board had originally been scheduled to meet with the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail at the Tuesday meeting but will instead meet with the group on the newly added Tuesday, Sept. 27 meeting. The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 6.