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April 17. 2013 10:36PM

Lincoln meeting brings people in favor of local dispatch service

LINCOLN - The folks who showed up at the informational meeting for a proposal from the Grafton County Sheriff's Department on what is might cost for the county to take over the town's dispatch services were overwhelmingly against the idea, according to town officials.

The Lincoln Board of Selectmen will discuss the topic at its Monday meeting, but no action will be taken, according to chairman O.J. Robinson. He explained that the board will be short a member until the beginning of May, due to vacations, and that it would not be fair to take a vote without a full board. He did not foresee the board's ultimate decision as generating controversy.

Robinson, who called the town's dispatch services "absolutely excellent" and added that the board is "extremely happy" with the staff, said the board had still wanted to see if there would be any savings by contracting with another agency. He said the people at the Monday night meeting were clearly in favor of keeping the dispatching in town, even if it meant giving up savings of $200,000. About 100 attended the meeting.

The town spends around $300,000 on the dispatch center. Going with Grafton could mean paying about $100,000, though that was just an estimate.

People at the meeting, Robinson said, said they wanted to keep the local touch, where the dispatchers have local knowledge of the people and its places. He said he thought the attendees represented "a decent enough of a cross-section" to represent townspeople's opinions.

"It was overwhelmingly in support of the (local) dispatch center," Butch Burbank, town manager said Wednesday. He said people acknowledged the potential savings of outsourcing dispatch services as significant, "but I think people were willing to pay."

Burbank said the presentation by dispatcher J.J. Bujeaud was "really well done."

On Wednesday, Bujeaud said his presentation dealt with statistics and numbers, saying that the Grafton estimate of the Lincoln dispatch's calls for service was low. In the Grafton proposal, the town would be billed for its percentage of calls for service. Grafton dispatches for other towns in the region.

The Lincoln dispatch center has four full-time and two part-time employees. Bujeaud said in his 15 years at the center, costs have been consistent. Personnel costs are about $280,000. He said that he didn't think the town would save as much money as presented in the Graton proposal.

"Grafton gave a great presentation," Bujeaud said, but that townspeople wanted to keep dispatch local.

Lincoln Police Chief Ted Smith said that as far as he was concerned, the Lincoln dispatchers are the best.


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