Hopedale Pulling Out of Regional Dispatch
By Michelle Sanford Staff Reporter/Columnist · July 09, 2012
Come the beginning of November, the three town regionalized dispatch agreement among Mendon, Hopedale, and Millville may be down to just two towns. During a June meeting, the Hopedale Board of Selectmen voted not to renew its contract to participate in the regionalized dispatch; according to Police Chief Mark Giovanella, the agreement is scheduled to end on November 1.
In recent months, Hopedale town officials have expressed their frustrations with the regionalized dispatch services, complaining that communication from dispatchers was handled incorrectly.
In 2009, the three towns joined together to form a regionalized dispatch center. The dispatch control center is located in Mendon. Residents of Hopedale and Millville communicate through a video feed if they walk into their town's police station. The formation of the shared dispatch services resulted in significant savings for all three towns.
According to Mendon Police and Fire Chief Ernest Horn, it was Hopedale officials who initially approached Mendon and Millville about the regionalization. While Millville town officials expressed interest, geographically, they felt Hopedale was too far. Because Mendon was located more centrally between the two other communities, it was agreed Mendon would maintain the dispatch center and oversee the regionalization.
Horn admits that errors have been made, but that errors have been made on both sides saying, "We're human. We make mistakes. However, none of those mistakes ever involved someone's safety."
Over the past three years, the regionalized dispatch center has taken more than 50,000 calls. According to Horn, of that number only two complaints were from Hopedale residents. Horn went on to say the complaints did not concern safety but instead were residents complaining that a dispatcher was discourteous.
Horn said if the matter with Hopedale is not resolved by the beginning of November, Mendon will continue to take Hopedale's dispatch calls. "We're not going to not take the calls. It's a matter of public safety," he said.
Over the past several months, the Mendon Board of Selectmen has tried to reach out to Hopedale officials to see if differences could be worked out, but to no avail. "When it comes right down to it, they want their own dispatch center back," said Horn. During a Special Town Meeting in June, residents approved funding for new dispatch salaries. Giovanella said the town is currently working with the state to get its dispatch equipment back.
Horn said there will be a financial impact to Mendon when Hopedale pulls out. How much of a financial impact is not known yet and will be determined when the amount of funding Mendon receives back from the state for its regionalized services is confirmed.
Recently, Mendon town officials reached out to other communities including Uxbridge and Upton to join the regional dispatch, but stated that until a new police station is built, no other community will want to come to Mendon. "After we're up and running, we'll approach other communities again," said Horn.
Regardless, Horn says he's still a big supporter of regionalized services in communities. "We've regionalized the schools, why not the dispatch and other services?" he said. "It needs to happen."