Thursday, September 2, 2010

Will Massachusetts Emergency Dispatch Services Ever Be Regionalized?

Massachusetts is one of the only states that has not, for the most part, regionalized its dispatch services. Granted, it takes years, serious investment and extreme dedication to accomplish such an undertaking. Case in point: the State of Oregon worked for 16 years to regionalize the dispatch of its state police services, but it was worth it. Now, there are two command centers that act as primary points of contact for all state police needs across the state - instead of 26. Tax payers' money is saved, scales of economies are realized, and updated technologies are enjoyed throughout the state.

It's not that the ideas and the benefits haven't been presented. In the last three years, Essex, Plymouth and Worcester counties have all brought up proposals for regionalizing emergency dispatch services. And with any Massachusetts proposal, there have been dissenters. Those opposed to the combining of services, site possible layoffs, lack of presence in overnight facilities to greet visitors, and varying degrees of dispatcher familiarity with towns involved, as main reasons to veto.

Even though finances shouldn't be the main reason to act on this trend, it is hard to overlook the hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money that could be saved. And now, when agencies are expected to do less with more, and budget cuts are forcing every department to look more thoroughly than ever at its expenditures, those savings could really be leveraged. If nothing else, then there are plenty of case studies to show us the way to regionalize emergency dispatch for our own success, and that may just be enough to lead us firmly in that direction.

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