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Date last updated: Wednesday, January 2, 17:49 PST

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Mass towns consider regional dispatch model, increase in grant money

Patricia Roy
The Landmark

HOLDEN, Mass. — In recent years, state and federal agencies have encouraged communities to move to a regional dispatch model. Towns that adopt that model have been rewarded with increased grant money and the savings that come from sharing resources.

It's a move that Police Chief George Sherrill is interested in pursuing with the town of Princeton.

He told selectmen at their Dec. 17 meeting that some towns, including Sterling and Worcester, have gone back and forth on this issue for a number of years. Rutland is having success hosting a regional center for Hubbardston, Oakham and Barre.

Princeton is a natural partner for the town because the two communities share the same communications software and report to the same court, Sherrill told the board.

Selectman Mark Ferguson said he was all for regional dispatch if it saved the town money and provided a better ambulance billing system.

Discussions have not been completed between the two towns, Sherrill said. "Ultimately, it will be a savings for both communities," he said.

When liability concerns were raised by Ferguson, acting town manager Jacquelyn Kelly said regional dispatch would minimize the town's risk by having a more capable center. Two people would man the center at all times, allowing public safety officials to better handle a call surge.

The dispatch center handles about 15,000 calls a year, she said.

The board of selectmen also approved a mutual aid agreement with other Central Massachusetts communities that would give police officers on mutual aid calls the "rights, privileges and immunities" of an officer in the community to which they were called.

Currently, there are no police powers beyond town lines unless an officer is in active pursuit, Sherrill said.

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