(NECN: Mike Cronin, Leicester, Mass. ) - Faced with a tight budget, Leicester, Mass., public officials consider moving their four dispatchers to a regional center in Worcester. Chairman of the board of selectmen Douglas Belanger says it could save money and improve services.
“And each year departments are getting squeezed more and more financially but yet trying to provide the same quality service and they've been able to do that for six, seven years, but we're reaching a wall,” Belanger said.
David Clemons - the director of emergency communications for Worcester - says Leicester and West Boylston are two towns thinking of joining the Worcester Regional Dispatch Center. It will be developed on Coppage Drive near the airport. Funded through grants, Clemons says Leicester and other towns would save money by combining services.
“We're offering the service to them at a much reduced rate, most of that is even free,” Clemons said.
Clemons says most small towns such as Leicester have only one or two dispatchers on duty and they can get overwhelmed with calls. He says a larger dispatch center can alleviate that stress.
“Instead of just one person in a room, you can have two or three working on the same incident and to alleviate that workload and everyone gets better service, including the first responders,” Clemons said.
Still, Belanger says removing dispatchers from Leicester could have a negative impact. When people are arrested, they're brought to a jail cell at the police station.
“The people who watch the prisoners when they're in a cell are the dispatchers,” Belanger said.
Belanger says the town is not looking to close the police station. Right now, he says the board of selectmen is listening to all angles of the issue.
“If it can be done practically, if it can be done safely, then that's a good thing,” he said. “It will help us save and grow. If we can't, we won't. That decision hasn't been made yet.”