The consolidation of emergency dispatch services on the South Shore took another step forward last week, as the new Duxbury Regional Emergency Communications Center agreed to handle “911” calls for the town of Plympton.
Under the five-year agreement, which was signed Monday by Duxbury selectmen, the state will pay Plympton’s $55,858 annual share, or 13 percent of the roughly $430,000-a-year operating budget. Meanwhile, Duxbury gets $159,956 for the first year of equipment upgrades to the center.
Regional dispatch centers are being encouraged by the state, which provided a $175,000 grant in 2011 to conduct a feasibility study for creating such facilities on the South Shore, including an emergency center for such towns as Duxbury, Halifax, Kingston, and Plympton.
The new agreement brings together Plympton, a town of just under 3,000 residents, and Duxbury, with a population around 14,000. The Duxbury center, which has been operating since February, is located at 668 Tremont St. in a special communications suite on the second floor of the fire station.
Duxbury Fire Chief Kevin Nord said the center could expand to handle as many as two more communities, and Halifax or Kingston could eventually join.
Regional centers already exist in Hingham, at the South Shore Regional Emergency Call Center, which also serves Cohasset, Hull, and Norwell; and a regional center in Holbrook, which handles Holbrook and Whitman.
There had been discussions between Bridgewater and East Bridgewater about forming a partnership, but that was put on hold for now, according to Bridgewater police Lieutenant Tom Schlatz.
At the Duxbury center, seven full-time and 11 part-time dispatchers will begin handling calls from Plympton around January, said Nord.
Nord said there are plans to have cameras in the Plympton police station so that visitors there and dispatchers in Duxbury can see each other, since the station there is usually unstaffed, except for patrol officers who come in and out.
The center also has a geographic information system that will help locate where houses and streets are, helping particularly with nighttime operations.
He said the new equipment also monitors the weather and can allow for better storm preparations.
The arrangement should also help provide better record management for Plympton, he said.
“There’s some definite efficiences here,” Nord said.
“It’s like Mission Control in Houston when you walk in. It’s all state-of-the-art,” said Dale Pleau, town coordinator for Plympton.
The State Police currently take emergency calls for Plympton and provide limited dispatching. Pleau said the State Police have done a fine job for the town, but he believes the agreement with Duxbury will be a good fit for all involved, including taxpayers.
“We’re really excited,’’ said Plympton Police Chief Patrick Dillon. He said the new system should allow for better coordination among towns and better service for Plympton residents. Rather than have a medical emergency call transfered, the dispatcher will be able to provide guidance to the caller and relay information to the responders.
According to Duxbury Fire Captain Robert Reardon, who is also a paramedic, dispatchers can stay on the line to offer medical assistance, talking individuals through performing CPR if necessary.
“That’s what we bring to the table,” he said.
Terrel Harris, communications director for the state Executive Office of Public Safety, said the number of emergency call centers in the state has been reduced from 265 to 252 and the state continues to encourage regionalization to improve public safety and save money for taxpayers.
“It makes the operations more efficient, therefore not only saving the state money, but local cites and towns,’’ he said.