ADAMS — The Board of Selectmen reached a compromise Wednesday that will allow the town to regionalize its emergency dispatch services while still retaining two of its three full-time dispatchers.
The 25-year agreement, passed by a four-to-one vote of the board, will result in the town joining the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office Emergency Communications Center for its emergency communication and dispatch services. The transition is not immediate and is contingent on the town winning a grant to pay for it.
The estimated savings to the town will be at least $95,000 annually, according to Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco.
Mazzucco first recommended late last year that the town utilize the regional dispatch services of the sheriff's communications center. The proposal was made after a town-commissioned report stated that Adams would see significant savings and improve its access to technology by making the switch. The study, conducted by consultant Thomas Kennedy of CTC, Inc., was first commissioned in 2011 and updated in 2015.
Under the agreement, police, fire and emergency medical services will be dispatched from the communications center in Pittsfield, not the Adams Police Station on School Street. More than 25 communities in Berkshire and Hampden counties already utilize the sheriff's dispatch services.
"I've looked into this thoroughly, and I personally feel it's time we go into this system," Selectman Joseph Nowak said, adding that its benefits include a full-time information technology specialist.
The original proposal would have required that the town lay off its three full-time dispatchers, who have more than 50 years of experience between them and are all also members of the Adams Volunteer Fire Department.
In a compromise, Mazzucco altered the proposal this week to include maintaining two full-time dispatchers to handle nonemergency calls at the police station; one position will be paid fully by the town while the Ambulance Service and Fire Department will pay $50,000 annually toward the second position.
"With this option, the town's direct cash savings do decrease, but are still substantial," Mazzucco stated in a letter to the board.
The cost of joining the communications center will begin at $23,000, with an optional escalator of up to 3 percent annually.
The move is contingent on a $700,000 state 911 grant that is expected to pay for the transition to the new dispatch center, which Mazzucco said he expects to hear back on soon.
In arguing against the original proposal, the dispatchers contended that the estimated savings were inaccurate because the town will still need to staff the desk in order to maintain a 24/7 police station, resulting in extra overtime and reserve officer pay.
"I just feel that the amount of calls that are received on the public [743-1212] number is still substantially high, and it's emergencies that are called into that number," said Selectman John Duval. "I think having the one dispatcher on the first shift is definitely warranted to continue."
Dispatchers also argued that they have a superior knowledge of the town's streets, residents and police officers. The local police officer's union expressed their support for keeping the local dispatchers at last month's public hearing.
Selectman Jeffrey Snoonian was the lone vote against the regionalization plan.