Concord re-evaluates regional 911 agreement with Acton, seeks ‘neutral’ site

By Betsy Levinson
June 27, 2023

Two years ago, the towns of Concord and Acton signed an agreement for a regional 911 emergency response facility “for the purpose of providing efficient, shared and effective municipal emergency dispatch.” 

But since May 2021, the officially-named Acton-Concord Regional Emergency Communications Center, or A-C RECC, has made little progress.

“To be brutally honest,we are not making the kind of progress we need to justify spending so much time,” said Town Manager Kerry Lafleur. “This is a serious issue.” 

She noted  that the agreement was inked by former Town Manager Steve Crane, and police chiefs in Concord and Acton who have since retired ,as well as Select Board members who are no longer serving.

A big factor, according to Lafleur, is the site of the proposed 911 facility. Currently it is planned for a building adjacent to the Acton Police Department, a site which. Lafleur says is not “neutral” and favors Acton.

Lafleur told the Select Board Monday that the town is left with three options: proceed with the current arrangement with Acton, requiring strong backing by the current Select Board; withdraw from the intermunicipal agreement and start fresh; or delay for six months to “reassess membership” in the agreement. Lafleur added that other towns have expressed interest in joining forces.

The board seemed to favor granting the six-month pause.

The two towns were described as “quite well suited” to establish a regional center as “both are similar in population, call volume, culture” and more. 

But that was then. Things have changed, she said.

Lafleur said Concord is “unwell suited” to the facility where Acton would dominate and Concord would be “hosted.”

“Our goals are not the same,” she said. “Acton is in a more favorable position.” She called for an evaluation of other sites that would be “neutral.” In addition, she said other towns have expressed interest in sharing 911 dispatch activities.

Select Board member Terri Ackerman will contact the Acton representative to the Intermunicipal Agreement board to try to make progress on hiring an executive director to oversee the operation. But she and other board members were not full-throated in their support. 

“I’m  unsure about this arrangement,” said Ackerman. “I’m not sure if it’s working.”

Board member Linda Escobedo expressed similar “strong reservations,”

“This is a difficult situation,” said Escobedo, noting that the board wants to “support our own staff” in a truly neutral location.

Henry Dane, board chairman, said the situation is “equally bad for both towns.”

Police Lt. Brian Goldman said the state 911 department  is “pushing regional, standalone structures, and we are not going to get that with Acton.”

Board member Mary Hartman said the agreement “doesn’t feel like a good fit.” She added that Concord could look for other partners while still keeping Acton in the agreement.

Lafleur said a six-month pause would give her the opportunity to look for other partners and other sites before moving forward. She said Acton would be willing to look at other sites.

The board will have an update on the agreement at its July 10 meeting.