Police Station & Regional Dispatch Center Slated to Open in May

Marjorie Turner Hollman
Norfolk’s new police station and dispatch center.
Issue Date: 
May, 2019
Article Body: 

The Norfolk Police Department has a new home on Sharon Avenue in Norfolk, near the Wrentham town line. In addition to the police station, the new building also houses the new Regional Metacomet Emergency Communications Center (MECC), serving the towns of Norfolk, Wrentham, Franklin, and Plainville.
Norfolk taxpayers funded the new police facility, while the state pitched in $6+million for the regional dispatch center. Chief of Police Charles H. Stone Jr. shared a laundry list of troubles that plagued the former police station over the years. He explained by email, “In 1985 we were happy to get the funding that we did, and build what we have been working out of, and we knew cuts had to be made, including not having an OPM [Office of Program Manager] on site to prepare reports of daily inspections of the work. Many of the issues I listed were a cause of trying to keep within the limited budget.”
Chief Stone shared his enthusiasm for the new facility and pointed to specific ways the new building will make the police force more effective in serving the community. He said, “We have a larger police force than when we built the addition to our old station in 1985. We have women officers on the police force, larger vehicles, and heating woes, which all contributed to the changing needs that will now be satisfied with this new, up-to-code facility.”
He continued, “We have office space that will carry us way into the future, garage space for our vehicles, a safe booking area, and 5 holding cells for any arrests we might have to make. We have more than adequate meeting space, better file storage, evidence storage, and an actual weapon cleaning and storage area that has proper ventilation. We have great heat and cooling systems, and the building is insulated to at least R-42. We couldn’t be happier or more proud of our new facility and we thank all the taxpayers and department heads who supported this project for giving us the privilege of working out of such a modern faculty.”
The upstairs of the new police station houses a completely different set of staff. The MECC’s regional dispatch facility director, Gary Premo, has been in the field of public safety for the past 32 years. We met with Premo before the dispatch facility came on line, and got a chance to see the heart of the operation, which will house 24 dispatchers when fully operational, with room to add additional towns in the future if other nearby towns decide to join in.
Premo explained that all 911 calls in the towns of Norfolk, Wrentham, Franklin, and Plainville will all come into this one dispatch center, where a crew of dispatchers will triage the calls and forward each call to a dedicated dispatcher to handle each situation until on-ground help can arrive. This new facility will provide GPS positioning information to each dispatcher, and cell phone calls will all go directly to this facility, rather than going to the state police, as in the past. The old system involved transferring calls, and often created serious delays in getting appropriate local help where it was needed.
Premo noted, “I like that we’re in a police facility. The center is secure, and being on the edge of town, we are out of the public eye, with fewer distractions.” He continued, “This is a stressful job, but I get excited when a call comes in, because we can help people.”
The center will start becoming active on May 6, with one new town added to the dispatch center each day as they work to get any bugs out of the new system. Premo noted, “Other states have had regional dispatch centers for many years, so we are not reinventing the wheel. Once we are up and running for a year or two we will reach out to additional towns to see if they want to participate with us. We have room to take on additional towns’ dispatches. More towns would lower the cost for everyone. Each town pays their share of the operating cost by the volume of calls coming in from each respective town.”
Jim Lehan, chair of the Norfolk Board of Selectmen, who was also on the building committee, commented, “Gary Premo and Matt Hafner, the facilities director and Norfolk project manager for this whole project, have been great. Matt fixed problems. We’re proud of this project. Norfolk takes responsibility for the building maintenance—we have a contract with the group—so the costs are shared with the other towns. We would never have been able to afford a facility this good. The state is encouraging regional dispatch facilities. Foxboro is working on one for their area right now. We’re proud of it, and grateful to the voters who approved the project.”