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Regional Dispatch On Track With Four Towns On Board

October 20, 2011 : Nashoba Publishing, by M.E. Jones

HARVARD – Of the five communities targeted to participate in the Devens/Nashoba Valley Regional Dispatch Project – Harvard, Lancaster, Lunenburg, Shirley and Devens – four are now committed.

Devens, where the facility will be located, was in from the first. Harvard Selectmen signed on a few weeks ago, followed by Lancaster. Shirley opted out.

Last Tuesday night, Town Administrator Tim Bragan told the board that Lunenburg has joined the roster and the project is good to go with four members.

“Lunenburg voted to join last week, Bragan said. A new agreement based on the downsized number is expected by Nov. 1.

Bragan summarized a recent meeting with retired Devens Fire Chief Thomas Garrity – a designated proponent retained as a consultant by MassDevelopment – and representatives of the state E-911 organization, which is kicking in grant money to launch the project.

“The E-9ll folks asked about getting other communities on board,” Bragan said, but nobody was interested in furthering that cause, at least not now. “We’re fine for now,” with the current members, he said. The consensus was that it’s time to get going.

Completion of the center is expected to take about 18 months to two years. “We’ll be getting down to timelines” now that the roster is firmed up, Bragan said.

Having received a $500,000 start-up grant with the promise of $800,000 more, another grant application has been submitted, this time to the Central Massachusetts branch of Homeland Security, Bragan said. Harvard Fire and Police Chiefs Joseph Sicard and Edward Denmark are going with Garrity to make a pitch for it.

The grant is for radio communication equipment, he explained, adding to $1.3 million already secured for the purpose.

Thanks in part to grants, savings for each member community have been estimated at over $100,000 the first year. After that, economies of scale and shared resources should begin to pay off.

Other anticipated perks include improved services. The paradigm should start to shift once the facility is up and running, Bragan said, and more communities may line up for inclusion.

According to project proponents, the regional approach that already works well in other states may be the wave of the future in Massachusetts. For regional dispatch alone there are 20 feasibility studies in the funding queue now, Bragan said.

© Copyright 2011 Nashoba Publishing.