News : Amesbury to Withdraw from Emergency Call Center
Amesbury, MA, USA, June 15, 2017 -- Mayor Ken Gray and the Police and Fire departments got their wish to withdraw the city from the Essex County Regional Emergency Communications Center granted by the City Council but not without a few conditions.
With more than 25 of the city’s emergency personnel in attendance, the council heard stories from numerous residents who have had difficulties with the Middleton-based call center’s location and response times before voting 8-1 to withdraw Tuesday night.
Having entered into an intermunicipal agreement with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department in 2010, the city joined Beverly, Middleton, Wenham, Topsfield and Essex in establishing the call center to handle police, fire and medical emergency calls for the six municipalities.
But with Beverly opting out before the RECC went online in 2013 and with the Topsfield police officers union and the Amesbury firefighters union voting no confidence in the call center, Gray asked the City Council in May for permission to pull out of the service in 2019.
"Concerned about what the city would do after leaving the communications center in 2019, City Council President Christian Scorzoni gave voice to a list of questions the council had before voting on the measure.
"Are we going on our own or are we meeting with other communities? Are we hosting or are we going somewhere else? What are all of those costs?" Scorzoni said. "I think all of those questions are quite reasonable things to ask."
Admitting, "it is just not useful, safe or conceivable that Amesbury stays in the (RECC)," District 4 City Councilor Bob Lavoie also stated his concern that Gray’s request would hand the mayor "a blank check" to establish a new dispatch center.
"I can’t do that in good conscience," Lavoie said.
Understanding the need for a quick decision before the end of the fiscal year this month, Lavoie offered an amendment to Gray’s initial order that the mayor found acceptable.
According to Lavoie’s amendment, Gray must provide an outline of all projected costs over the course of five years associated with withdrawing from the communications center and either re-establishing a replacement dispatch center in the city or joining another regional dispatch center by Dec. 1.
The mayor must also inform the council of any possible financial penalties that might be imposed on the city by the Massachusetts State 911 Department.
Dissatisfied with the amount of information the mayor had disclosed in his initial order and not wanting to hand Gray a "blank check," too, City Councilor Steve Stanganelli pointed to a time in his personal life when he needed to call 911 for a family emergency in Hyannis.
While Stanganelli said his call was routed to a similar emergency communication center, he was pleased to have gotten an immediate response and would be the sole dissenting vote on the matter Tuesday.
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