Lee poised to switch 911 calls to county dispatch

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Editor's note: This article was updated on Sept. 28, 2017, to correct the non-emergency number for the Lee Police Department. The non-emergency line is: 413-243-5530.

LEE — Come Monday, Lee emergency calls will be fielded by the Berkshire County Sheriff's 911 Dispatch Center.

The switch, initially scheduled for Oct. 31, has been pushed up to accommodate remaining dispatchers who sought additional training to be hired elsewhere.

"We're hoping to have a smooth transition," said Lee Police Chief Jeffrey Roosa. "Sheriff [Thomas] Bowler and his staff have made this transition easy."

Lee opted last April to switch to the countywide dispatch operation rather than shoulder the costs associated with tying into a new state 911 system, which will come online in the near future. To be compatible with the new system, the town would have had to spend between $250,000 and $300,000 to overhaul its dispatch center, located in the basement level of Lee Memorial Town Hall.

Costs to cover the countywide system have yet to be negotiated; the town has budgeted $116,000 in fiscal 2018 to cover the local dispatch costs until the switch. The annual local dispatch cost for Fiscal 2016 was $203,000.

One of the four full-time Lee dispatchers will join the countywide dispatch center, which officially begins handling Lee calls at 5 p.m. Oct. 2. Two others will retire; one full-timer and one part-timer will be laid off.

Residents concerned about the sheriff's dispatchers dealing with well-check calls of Lee residents, other non-emergency inquiries, along with 911 calls shouldn't worry, Roosa said.

"All calls will be handled just as they are here," he said. "It's just different voices at the other end."

For non-emergency police calls, residents can reach the Lee Police Department at 413-243-5530 during regular weekday hours; calls will roll over to the countywide dispatch evenings, overnights and on weekends.

Residents with other questions are encouraged to dial town departments directly. Those numbers are listed in the phone book and on the town's website. The general switchboard dispatch number, 413-243-2100, will be transferred to county dispatch.

As for the Lee dispatch equipment, "It's obsolete, but anything usable we'll keep and discard the rest," Roosa said.

Roosa hopes the dispatch room can be converted into office space for his on-duty officer to do reports and be available to answer questions from the public when not out on patrol. but it wouldn't be regularly manned.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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