A local resident, who identified herself only as “Kim”, donned a T-Rex costume and took to the corner of Main & Grove today to urge residents to attend the Select Board meeting this Tuesday, December 6 at 6:30 PM.
At issue is the matter of the establishment of a Regional Emergency Communications Center (RECC). If approved, it would eliminate the local police and fire dispatchers that currently work at the Hopkinton Police Station in favor of a regional dispatch center serving Hopkinton, Westborough, Southborough, and Grafton.
The towns requested a feasibility study from the State 911 Department, who authorized the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management to perform it. You can read the full report here. The Collins Center concluded that it was feasible to form a RECC, that it would provide significant financial benefit to the towns, and that it would take approximately 24-30 months to create.
Later, the Collins Center followed up with an addendum, which included the staffing, equipment, and cost requirements. The full addendum is here.
The report concluded that the total project cost will be $2,273,260. The State 911 is expected to offset $1,203,419 of this by way of a Support & Incentive Grant, leaving a remainder of $1,069,841. Of this, Hopkinton will be expected to fund $233,011 of the cost, which is based on the anticipated volume of 911 calls.
Hopkinton currently spends $714,008 to support local 911 services. The proposed RECC would result in an estimated cost savings of $480,996 per year.
Residents like Kim, however, have concerns.
“We’ve been kept in the dark on this,” she said. “This is an important issue that the public needs to know about.”
“I don’t think it’s the best choice for Hopkinton,” Kim continued. “I grew up here and it has always been a small, tight-knit community. The police and fire are out and about with residents. But if we go Regional, we won’t know who the dispatchers are, and the police and fire won’t know who they are either. The dispatchers will be dispatching for towns they know nothing about, so considering residents and officer’s safety, I don’t think this is best.”
If the RECC is approved, it is anticipated that the Hopkinton police station will go “dark” during certain hours. Current staffing levels require there to be two dispatchers on duty (one for Police, one for Fire) as well as two officers on the road at all times. In the RECC model, the station could be unmanned, requiring walk-in’s to use a telephone in the lobby to be connected to the regional dispatch center.
In a letter to the Select Board dated December 1, Town Manager Norman Khumalo shared the consultant’s report and recommended the Board schedule a public hearing on December 20, 2022.
The Select Board will discuss this briefly at Tuesday’s meeting, and likely schedule the public hearing as recommended.
As to why the T-Rex costume? “I figured it would get some attention,” Kim said.