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Bunnell shares concerns about proposed regional 911 center

Date: 7/2/2015

WILBRAHAM – Selectman Susan Bunnell shared her concerns regarding a proposed $5.7 million Hampden County regional emergency communication center (RECC) during its June 29 meeting.

Bunnell said the revenue stream for 911 dispatch projects, which is generated from a surcharge off of cell phone bills, could become less dependable in future decades.

“I understand this is a separate stream of funding, but we’ve seen what’s happened between your Verizon bill or your AT&T bill and now we’ve transitioned to mobile and who knows what will happen and whether that revenue stream is going to suddenly change,” she added.

“My concern as a tax payer is that your creating an entity that I’m not even sure is going to be obligated to show up at Town Meeting to explain a budget, let alone get sign off for the funding,” she continued. “That’s a little unnerving to me.”

Bunnell noted that one positive aspect is that the project would not have to be approved for bonding through Proposition 2 ½ because the town is not responsible for funding the proposed RECC.

A consultant team representing the Carell Group also presented information to the board regarding the potential RECC project, which if approved, would serve the communities of Wilbraham, Hampden, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, and Ludlow.

Greg Carrell, founder of the Carell Group based in Hopkinton, said planned regional police dispatch center would include a space of 90,000 square feet with areas such as a dispatch room, technological equipment, training, offices, and staff support.

Funding for the RECC comes from Chapter 500 grants, which was established in 2014, Carrell said.

The ideal location is the Greenwood Center in Longmeadow based on three locations – the other two are the future police stations of Hampden and Wilbraham, he added. However, the project has yet to enter into its feasibility phase regarding finding the final location.

Police Chief Roger Tucker said he thinks the RECC is a project that has fostered cooperation among public safety departments of neighboring communities.

The departments of the five towns have meeting for more than a year to discuss the project.

“Wilbraham is ahead of the curb on this,” he added. “There’s some communities that have a lot of work to do to catch up, but I think overall it could standardize operations.”

George Fosque, retired director of 911 services for Cambridge, said local cell phone calls are transferred to Northampton, the nearest dispatch center for cell calls. One third of calls take at least one minute to transfer calls to a local police or fire department.

He added that the potential RECC would have four to five people would be on duty at any time and a full staff of 17 people.

The consultant team has also presented information regarding the project to Longmeadow’s Select Board at its June 15 meeting.

The next step would be for the five communities to agree to enter into a planning committee, Carrell said.

In other business, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the Police Station Building Committee’s recommendation to hire Construction Monitoring Services (CMS) to serve as the owner’s project manager for the $8 million project.

Building Committee Chair Roger Fontaine said the committee interviewed four finalist candidates on June 24 and the criteria for evaluation included services rendered, a five-year history, and the candidate’s response to the request for proposal. The Building Committee voted unanimously to recommend CMS to the board.

“We are on schedule and ahead of schedule hopefully,” he added. “We’ll keep moving.”

The Building Committee must now negotiate with CMS regarding a contract, Fontaine said.