PETERBOROUGH

24-hour dispatch service in review

Chief: Faster response time is possible

PETERBOROUGH — Having a dispatcher working round the clock at the Peterborough Police Station could give the town faster service and perhaps even save money, Police Chief Scott Guinard said during a joint meeting of the Select Board and the Budget Committee on Tuesday.

Guinard asked the board to support a warrant article calling for $25,000 to conduct a needs study that would determine if the switch from using the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department and Southwest Mutual Aid Service to handle police and fire calls during the late night shift would benefit the town.

“This is being done in a number of towns and it works well,” Guinard said.

Under the current arrangement, according to a document Guinard distributed at the meeting, the town now spends $250,271 annually for dispatching.

That amount includes salary and benefits for two full-time clerk dispatchers ($130,000), and wages for two part-time dispatchers who cover for vacations and illnesses ($9,800). Those employees, who work the daytime and early evening shifts, are all civilian employees, Guinard said. The town also spends $3,500 for local staffing during events like a major storm, when the outside dispatch services are extremely busy and need local assistance.

The rest of the cost is $34,433 for the Sheriff’s Department dispatch service and $72,538 for Southwest Mutual Aid, which provide the night shift coverage for the police and fire departments, respectively.

Not counting first-year set-up costs, Guinard said a move to shared dispatching, with one person on duty at all times handling police and fire calls, would cost about $263,000. That’s just $9,729 more than the current system.

The town would have three full-time clerk dispatchers, at a cost of $190,000 for salary and benefits and part-time dispatcher costs would rise to $55,000. Expected overtime costs would be $18,000.

The cost of the program would be split equally between the police and fire departments budgets.

Guinard said a major benefit of the program would be faster response time.

“A dispatcher in Goffstown doesn’t know the roads in Peterborough,” he said.

Night shift police officers would no longer have to respond to the police station when someone shows up there with a request that could easily be handled by a clerk-dispatcher, like the return of a lost wallet.

“It will keep them out on the road, where they should be,” Guinard said.

He said if the warrant article is approved, the $25,000 will be used to hire a consultant to assess Peterborough’s situation.

“We’re not experts on this technology,” Guinard said, referring to himself and Fire Chief Joe Lenox. “The study would determine exactly what we need.”

If the study is approved, he said, a project timeline calls for recommending the change as part of the 2014 budget. Construction to expand the dispatch office at the police station would happen in the summer and fall of 2014, with the goal of being operational by the winter of 2014.

Leslie Lewis, chair of the town’s Capital Improvement Committee, said the change would mean additional cost for salary and benefits.

“My concern is adding head count to the town,” Lewis said. “I’d like to see the study include the impact of those costs over time.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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