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Medfield Part of $100K Grant to Study Regional Public Safety Dispatch Center

Foxborough was awarded an E911 Regional Public Safety Dispatcher grant to fund a feasibility study to see if regionalization would work for the towns of Foxborough, Walpole and Medfield.

The town of Foxborough has received a $100,000 Regional Public Safety Dispatcher grant from the E911 Department to fund a feasibility study to see whether a regional dispatch center for Foxborough, Walpole and Medfield would work for the communities involved.

“This is about as major league a grant as you can get,” Foxborough Town Manager Kevin Paicos said. “It was based on the strength of the initiative and [Foxborough Police Chief Edward O’Leary’s] outstanding work that he put in on the grant application.”

Paicos congratulated O’Leary on receiving the grant and said he thinks “this is the start of something very big for the town.”

O’Leary said the grant money will give the three communities interested in a regional dispatch center an opportunity to make an “objective assessment as to whether regionalization would fit in” Foxborough, serving the communities of Walpole and Medfield.

O’Leary said representatives from each town met a “couple of months ago” to discuss the possibility of regionalization and there was agreement at that meeting to proceed with requesting a study.

“Chief [Richard] Stillman from Walpole contacted me and then joined with Chief [Robert] Meaney from Medfield, who had contacted him about regionalization ... so I’m hoping the RFP consultant can come in and make an objective assessment as to the benefits for all three of our communities,” O’Leary said. 

The shared interest between O’Leary, Stillman and Meaney led to Foxborough filing a grant application with E911, according to Paicos.

“Based on the enthusiasm of looking into [the possibility of regionalization], [O’Leary] wrote a grant to the E911 program,” Paicos said. … “He wrote the grant application in about three days so congrats to the chief for getting the grant.”

Meaney said he was pleased with the news of Foxborough receiving the grant money from E911 to fund the study and described dispatching as a “critical function” of any public safety agency and explained how regionalization for a town like Medfield could work.

“There are periods of quiet followed by periods of intense activity,” Meaney said of his town with a population just north of 12,000. “As an example, just a few days ago we had a call for an unresponsive child followed in a minute or so by a person having chest pains. At that point, one dispatcher needs to dispatch the Medfield ambulance, find an available Advanced Life Support unit for the first call and also dispatch a cruiser to the scene. Before the first call was completely dispatched, the call for the individual with chest pains was received.

“Add to that the fact that the dispatcher also needs to deal with providing reassurances to both calling parties that assistance for their family members is coming. Add to that, that as of July 1 this year, the dispatcher is also required to provide pre-arrival medical instructions to both calling parties regarding an unresponsive child and a person with chest pain.

“Further, the dispatcher is communicating with a minimum of two ambulances, two ALS units, two cruisers and any other calls that come in during this time period.”

Meaney points out that a regional dispatch center would provide at least two dispatchers, which would be a welcomed improvement to Medfield's one.

“There would have been at least two dispatchers to handle all this [at a regional dispatch center], which would still be difficult but not nearly as difficult as with the one dispatcher that we have in Medfield,” Meaney said.

The Medfield chief added scenarios like the one his department faced the other day are happening more frequently, making regionalization more appealing for departments in the area.

“This scenario is happening more frequently and with the requirement that pre-arrival instructions are given on medical calls, the workload of the dispatcher is increasing each day,” Meaney said. “In Medfield, I cannot justify having additional dispatch personnel on duty but regionalization will help to provide that.”

The next step in this process, according to Paicos, will be to hire a consultant “in the near future” and begin the feasibility study.

“Hopefully, in the not-so-distant future, you’re going to see Foxborough be the home for regional dispatch capability,” Paicos said.

As for a preliminary timeline for the project, Paicos said he hopes the town hires a consultant by the end of the summer to get the feasibility study underway. The study will then be done over “the next nine months” and an application for a construction grant would hopefully be filed in the spring of next year, according to Paicos.

“[We would] hopefully start thinking about physically constructing [a regional dispatch center] in the latter part of 2013 or early 2014 [with the goal] to have it up and running in 2014-2015,” he said.

“It will actually move along pretty quickly and that’s the way these people like these things to go,” Paicos said.

Foxborough Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis was pleased with the news and thanked O’Leary for his work.

“I think it’s great that we are still going in this direction of regionalization and when we can get grant money to do it, it takes the edge off,” DeVellis said.

Regionalization Could Include Norwood

O’Leary added that during early conversations about regionalization with Walpole and Medfield, Norwood had expressed interest but was not included in the grant application.

“Originally, Norwood came to the meeting but they were going through some revamping,” O’Leary said.

That doesn’t mean O’Leary is opposed to having Norwood join Walpole and Medfield in regionalization with Foxborough.

“I’m not discounting having Norwood join us, that isn’t the case and I haven’t had the chance to talk with E911 about the process for filing the RFP,” O’Leary said.

Where the Grant Money Comes From

Paicos said the E911 money that was awarded to Foxborough is received through cell phone calls made in the state each year.

“Believe it or not, a little piece of every cell phone call made in the state goes into [the E911] fund and it’s used to pay for regional dispatch initiatives and we actually get some training money into it,” Paicos said. 

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