Hampden to move emergency dispatch services to Wilbraham

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HAMPDEN – City emergency dispatch services will close and move to Wilbraham.

In a 2-1 vote, the board of directors of Hampden Select made the decision to consolidate its services with the neighboring town of Wilbraham at the meeting on Monday, January 4 via Zoom. Mary Ellen Glover, board member, was a dissenter.

Prior to this vote, Glover had brought forward a motion to execute a partnership contract with Chicopee-based regional dispatch service, WESTCOMM. Comparing Wilbraham to WESTCOMM, she said she felt WESTCOM was the best savings option as the regional split was working towards national accreditation and was approved by the state.

Glover also described the visit to the facility in Chicopee and how 16 dispatchers were currently employed against the five at Wilbraham at a previous meeting. Hampden had five dispatchers, as one of them recently resigned. Chicopee typically has six dispatchers per shift, Wilbraham has two and Hampden has one.

Currently, WESTCOMM is sending for the city of Chicopee as well as Longmeadow, East Longmeadow and Monson.

WESTCOMM also signed a purchase and sale agreement in September for the former Salter College building, located at 645 Shawinigan Drive in Chicopee, to expand its operations. Erin Hastings, executive director of WESTCOMM Regional Dispatch, said last year that she expected a closing date in early 2021. The renovations are expected to take about eight months.

In the end, Glover’s motion fell through as the rest of the board, John Flynn and President Donald Davenport, defeated it.

The board had explored options throughout 2020, as the costs of maintaining the dispatch at Hampden amounted to nearly $ 450,000.

Davenport brought forward a motion to consolidate its emergency dispatch services subject to reaching an acceptable intermunicipal agreement with both Hampden and Wilbraham’s boards of directors within 90 days.

“I think we need to combine and consolidate our expeditions for an economy for the city. It is very expensive. We have the possibility of taking advantage of certain state funding to achieve this. I think Wilbraham is our best advantage going forward. I think they know our city better, they are closer. The shipment will be practically down the street from where it is today, ”Davenport said. “I see it as a win-win for both cities. “

Davenport also said he believed that in 10 years every city in the Commonwealth would have combined with a large regional expedition.

The future of emergency dispatch services has been debated several times in recent years. Hampden resident Jim Smith, a former member of the select committee, advisory committee and the Conservation Commission, said he initially championed the cause in 2017 when he learned of discussions to move the shipping to Chicopee before the creation of WESTCOMM. That year, Smith said residents voted “by an overwhelming majority” in the town assembly through a non-binding article question not to consolidate with Chicopee.

In 2018, the Select Board was negotiating with East Longmeadow City Council to have East Longmeadow emergency dispatch services provided from Hampden. A vote by the municipal assembly turned out in favor on this issue, but the deal failed. East Longmeadow joined WESTCOMM on July 1, 2020.

Smith, who is currently a member of Hampden’s self-organized citizens’ dispatch committee, said he was disappointed the board voted on the future of dispatch without soliciting community input through the meeting. from the city. The committee had collected more than 130 signatures on a petition to include a non-binding referendum on the regional shipment to be included in the May 2021 mandate. The referendum would be non-binding because registered voters cannot direct the actions of the council or elected or appointed officials.

“The purpose of the petition was to ensure that any decision is the choice of a municipal assembly, and not of the board of directors. I can’t characterize every individual who signed up, but I feel like most are against regionalization in general, ”said Smith, who noted that the vast majority, if not all, are adamantly opposed to WESTCOMM in because of the “reported problems and the significant difference.” between the dominant community, Chicopee, and Hampden.

Smith also noted that he and two others had submitted written requests for a committee to be formed to study regional dispatch service options, but the select committee refused.

Following the select committee’s decision on Monday, Hampden’s citizens’ allocation committee is exploring other options, said Smith, who declined to provide further details at this time.

Acting city administrator Bob Markel noted that a selected council member noticed the next morning that some were criticizing the council’s decision via social media, but then complained about the taxes in the next section.

“The shipping decision has been pending for over a year. The Selectmen have spent many hours reviewing the options and assessing the impact on the city, ”Markel said in a statement. “Ultimately, the Selectmen made the decision to merge with Wilbraham to take advantage of savings of $ 1.3 million over the first five years after all costs were assessed.”

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