ADAMS — A desire to save town dollars was what led to the decision to launch an accelerated transition from the town police-operated emergency dispatch system to the system operated by the Berkshire County Sheriff's 911 Dispatch Center, said Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco.
Adams Ambulance Services General Manager Michael Gleason and Adams Alerts volunteer fire department First Assistant Chief John Pansecchi detailed complaints about the switch and communications issues they now face during an Aug. 3 meeting on the Select Board.
The switch occurred on July 1 rather than the scheduled Sept. 1 start date.
Mazzucco said that if the town had waited until Sept. 1 to launch the system, it would have cost the town between $10,000 and $15,000 for state-mandated training. According to state law, anyone answering 911 phone calls must be specially trained as an emergency medical dispatcher. The town was required to re-certify every two years when using its own system, said Louise McCarthy of the State 911 Department.
Mazzucco said that he felt that there was no need to spend money on the dispatcher training for the sake of two months. He said he inquired about getting a waiver for the training because a switch was imminent, but was told no waiver could be granted.
The Berkshire County Sheriff's Department oversees the dispatch center. Lt. Col. Thomas Grady said he believes the town is well served by the center.
Grady emphasized that no calls have gone unanswered and said he believes that most of the service is working exactly as it should. Grady and Mazzucco said that efforts are ongoing to resolve the problems brought to the selectmen's attention.
Gleason told selectmen that the 911 center was unwilling to handle patient transfer calls, which are usually not an emergency situation. Grady said that Gleason is correct, that service is not provided by the dispatch center.
"We handle 911 emergencies," he said. "We are not an answering service for a for-profit part of a business. It's a conflict of interest for us. Other agencies that provide these services use answering services."
Grady noted that handling non-emergency calls for transfers for all the 26 cities and towns they serve would not be practical.
Mazzucco said that he is aware that a communications tower located in the town of Florida needs some new infrastructure before it can offer any help to the town communications system.
"I am going to contact the state 911 department and see if I can get this expedited," he said.
Mazzucco said he does not know what the response from the agency will be.
Grady said that Gleason is extremely dedicated to emergency services both as an ambulance services professional and as a Florida Volunteer Fire department firefighter.
"Mike is dedicated. He is a good EMS guy and a good firefighter for the town," Grady said. "He has the best interests of people at heart."
Grady and Mazzucco said that they are looking forward to a scheduled Aug. 9 meeting with Gleason, Goyette, Police Chief Richard Tarsa Jr. and Selectmen's Chairman Jeffrey Snoonian at Town Hall.