EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

July 1, 2013

N.H. towns upset with proposed dispatch fee

Rockingham County center needs $500,000 of upgrades

Some Southern New Hampshire towns are concerned they will have to pay thousands of dollars each year to continue using the county's dispatch center.

Rockingham County towns recently learned they may have to pay $1 per resident for police dispatch services and 50 cents per person for fire dispatch services, angering community leaders. Towns using both services would pay $1.25 per resident.

The money is needed to upgrade and maintain the county dispatch center in Brentwood — a project expected to cost close to $500,000, Rockingham County Sheriff Michael Downing said.

It's hoped federal grant money would fund half the cost, he said. An initial estimate put the cost at roughly $950,000. The dispatch console is 14 years old, Downing said.

"This particular model isn't being supported anymore by the manufacturer," he said. "Getting parts is very difficult."

Communities that have their own dispatch centers, such as Derry and Londonderry, won't be affected.

But officials in small towns that use the county service would have to pay up, according to County Commissioner Thomas Tombarello of Sandown. The service has traditionally been funded through the county tax.

"We knew we didn't have the money to do the repairs on that dispatch center," he said. "It is something we need to do."

Tombarello said Downing informed the commissioners in January that the center needed major improvements. Three weeks ago, Downing met with police and fire chiefs to discuss the proposed fees.

Several dozen chiefs, other town officials and state legislators then met with the commissioners June 19 — and they weren't happy, Tombarello said.

"They think it's unfair for us to do that," he said. "We didn't anticipate (the meeting) to be as negative as it was."

Tombarello, who is also a Sandown selectmen, said his own town would have to pay an extra $6,000 a year to the county.

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