Concord lawyers up to get out of regional dispatch 

By Celeste Katz Marston
September 7, 2023

Concord is hiring outside legal help to extricate itself from a failed partnership with neighboring Acton to create a regional 911 dispatch center.  

The Select Board voted at its most recent meeting to appoint the firm of Burns & Levinson to handle the matter because the usual town counsel firm, Anderson & Kreiger, also represents Acton and so has a conflict.  

“We did think for a moment that perhaps this would be amicable and we could negotiate an exit without having to go for special counsel,” said Town Manager Kerry Lafleur. “But we did learn through our town counsel that the town of Acton intends to retain special counsel.” 

The Select Board voted August 8 to authorize Lafleur to do whatever was needed to pull Concord out of the agreement to create the Acton-Concord Regional Emergency Communications Center, or A-C RECC.  

It’s been more than two years since the towns agreed — under former leadership — to pool their efforts for an emergency call center. The project has never gotten off the ground.  

Concord, objecting to locating the center next to the Acton Police Department, recently asked its partner to pause the project for six months, allowing time to search for a more neutral site and to investigate whether more towns might want to join the consortium.  

But Acton officials offered only a three-month pause. While they were open to considering other locations, they argued there was no obvious problem with putting the RECC next to their own public safety building — and questioned whether Concord was trying to hold Acton “hostage” on the deal. 

Burns & Levinson’s Peter Durning, who has done legal work for Concord in the past, will handle the matter, Lafleur said at the Select Board’s August 28 meeting.  

She said the legal issue at hand is a provision in the agreement between the two towns that if either one wants to withdraw, they must give three years’ notice.  

That might make sense if the RECC were actually up and running, she said — but it’s not.  

“We can give three years’ notice now and just not make any progress. And I think that’s what we need to understand: [Can] we agree to something less than the three years, or do you want us to give the three years’ notice?” Lafleur said. If so, “It’s really going to be meaningless, because we’re not going to advance [the project].” 

Lafleur told the board she expects the legal work to cost the town just under $5,000. 

“We hope that just because there are lawyers involved, it still might remain amicable,” Select Board Chair Henry Dane said.  

He called the budget for the special counsel “money well spent.” 

Acton’s town manager, John Mangiaratti, has not responded to requests for comment about the agreement’s breakdown. Acton Select Board Clerk Dean Charter, who’s been in communication with the Concord board’s Terri Ackerman, has reserved comment until his group formally takes up the matter at a public meeting.