Moving Rowley 911 Center Hits Turbulence

Tuesday April 09, 2024

ROWLEY — A proposal to transfer the Rowley Communications Center, the town’s 911 dispatch service, to a regional dispatch service has stirred up a nor’easter among residents.
The proposed move to the North Shore Regional 911 Center in Middleton, which is designed to cut costs, may be decided at Town Meeting this spring, if the SelectBoard approves it.
But the SelectBoard is under increasing pressure to kick this can down the road.
On a new FaceBook site, Save Rowley 911, an opponent wrote: “Who do you want to report an emergency to on what could be the worst day of your life? Someone you know and trust? Or someone who has never stepped foot in your town? Outsourcing 911 is dangerous.”
The center employs four dispatchers, whose salary and benefits might be saved if the dispatch service is transferred.
North Shore 9-1-1 currently handles calls from Amesbury, Essex, Middleton, Topsfield, Wenham and the newest member, Manchester-by-the-Sea.
Ipswich considered joining, but decided not to when the police and firefighters opposed the transfer.
At last week’s SelectBoard meeting, former patrolman and detective Robert Adams spoke against the proposal, saying, “For decades, the men and women of the Rowley Police Department, and the Rowley Communications Center, have been there to help the people of this town – often on the worst day of their lives.
“They have been the calm voice on the other end of the phone, consoling a loved one, instructing CPR, or coordinating backup for an officer screaming for help. How dare this town consider turning their backs on them. For even considering the notion, I think you have made a terrible mistake.”
SelectBoard member Sheri David, who served as a dispatcher for 29 years, supported the proposal, saying that a regional call center would be better equipped than a single dispatcher to handle a growing volume of calls from Rowley residents.
David and other supporters believe the funds saved could be used to enhance the police and fire services, particularly staffing the fire department overnight, which has long been on the town’s wish list.
Referencing reports of poor morale in the police department, Adams, who served in the Rowley Police Department from 2012 to 2023, asked the SelectBoard, “How much worse will morale become and how many more officers will you lose if you remove the heart of the police department, the dispatch center?”
Another opponent on the Facebook page noted that two Rowley selectmen had toured the regional call center and came back with a glowing review of the center.
“If the town meeting is any indication, it will undoubtedly pass if left to them to vote. Don’t let the Town of Rowley regionalize 911,” the opponent wrote on the FaceBook page. “They will claim that it’s free, but nothing is free. Rowley will be stuck in a third regional agreement with an eventual and non-negotiable bill. Another bill the citizens will have no control over.”

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