Hamilton officials are in talks with another community that is interested in becoming an emergency dispatch partner after Wenham’s departure from the Hamilton-Wenham Emergency Center.
Hamilton Town Manager Michael Lombardo told the Board of Selectmen this week that he has made contact with one town that is interested in examining the possibly of partnering with Hamilton to provide emergency dispatch services.
Wenham joined Hamilton in 1960 to form the Hamilton-Wenham Emergency Center, which is housed in the Hamilton public safety building. It handles police, fire and ambulance calls around the clock, 365 days per year.
But last year , which will be located at the Essex County Sheriff’s Department property in Middleton. Construction on the building that will house the new center began in early October and it is expected to begin operation in early 2013.
Without Wenham, Hamilton is faced with increased costs, possibly as much as $250,000 annually, to keep the center operating.
“I am in discussions with a neighboring town,” Lombardo told Selectmen. The goal would be to get another town to replace Wenham, thereby covering the operating costs now paid by Wenham.
Later, in an interview, Lombardo did not want to say exactly what town in involved in the discussions.
After speaking to Selectmen, Lombardo said the existing Hamilton dispatch center could serve three to four towns (including Hamilton) “without significant capital costs.”
“I would love to see that happen, and it would likely reduce costs significantly for all involved - perhaps to even a greater extent than what is being offered at the (Middleton dispatch center),” he said.
Besides the town he’s been talking to, Lombardo said “there’s not a lot of other interest in coming on board with us.”
As soon as next week Lombardo said he will sit down with leaders from the other community to talk about more specifics.
“I feel a sense of urgency to move it forward,” Lombardo said, adding that he has told the neighboring community that “time is of the essence.”
The Hamilton Board of Selectmen but has not taken an official vote saying it is not going to the Middleton center, or voted to say it plans to keep the Hamilton dispatch center open on its own. But many board members have been reluctant to back the regional center and have, among other things, encouraged Lombardo to encourage other communities to join Hamilton.
Lombardo said he would like the Selectmen to take an official vote when it meets on Dec. 5.
This week, Hamilton Selectman Jeff Stinson said Lombardo’s conversation with at least one neighboring town “only makes sense.”
In May, a citizen petition went before Wenham Town Meeting voters asking if they wanted to withdraw from the Middleton dispatch center.
Wenham’s move to the Middleton center is expected to save the town anywhere from $75,000 to $106,000 annually, according to Wenham Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren.
Earlier this year Hamilton officials estimated Wenham’s annual savings at $40,000 and thought it could possibly meet Wenham in the middle to keep the town on board at the exiting dispatch center.
“Do we want to revisit the issue with Wenham?” Hamilton Selectman Hubbard asked this week.
“I’ve exhausted, administratively, the conversation,” Lombardo said.
Selectmen Chairman Jennifer Scuteri said she wants to hear more about what other communities are doing to handle its dispatch services.
“Not everyone is going to Middleton and what are they doing if they are going on their own?” she asked.