11 communities get $1.6M grant for call center.


Byline: Scott J. Croteau

WORCESTER - A group of communities is moving closer to sharing a regional emergency services call center after the governor's office announced the awarding of a $1.6 million grant for the project.

According to the state, the communities of Barre, Boylston, Fitchburg, Holden, Leicester, Lunenburg, Princeton, Spencer, Sterling and West Boylston have signed letters of intent to join Worcester in the regional call center.

City Manager Michael V. O'Brien said some of that money, about $50,000, will go to finishing a feasibility study on the regional call center, which will handle emergency calls for police and fire in those communities. The grant was distributed by the state 911 Department, part of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

"We will be doing a final feasibility study for a location which involves the acquisition and building of a 21st-century facility," Mr. O'Brien said. The center will be located in Worcester, but the manager would not discuss potential sites.

Grant funding is also going to support projects involving many other counties and communities, including Douglas, New Braintree and Rutland, according to the state.

Expressing gratitude for the money put forth by the Patrick-Murray administration, Mr. O'Brien said lean fiscal times make a regional call center for several communities cost effective and financially beneficial for all involved.

"This investment up front will ultimately pay dividends in saving tax dollars for all of these communities for the long term," Mr. O'Brien said.

The City Council asked two years ago about the regional call center when the state began to push that agenda, the manager said. The move comes at a good time for the city because it rebuilt its communications system along with training of staff.

Mr. O'Brien lauded David W. Clemons, the city's director of emergency communications, and said when the discussions of a regional call center began, there were talks of having the ring towns around the city join.

The list provided by the state shows a much wider region than just the towns surrounding Worcester. All of the communities would collectively share the costs of operating the call center, Mr. O'Brien said.

The projected date of completion is around the time fiscal 2012 begins in June 2011, but a lot of work is needed to ensure the system...

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