WOBURN - Police Chief Robert Ferullo spoke of the new dispatch center at Woburn Police headquarters in technological terms.
“Think of taking the personal computer you bought 23 years ago, and trading it in for a brand new iPad,” said Ferullo. “That’s the kind of upgrade we’re talking about.”
The enhanced dispatch center made its debut last week, with last-minute touch-ups occurring on Friday. The new facility features four equipment stations with eight monitors apiece, a separate command center for the officer-in-charge, and even a break room with a refrigerator and a microwave oven.
In roughly the same space, it replaces the archaic dispatch area in which officers were almost literally and figuratively tripping over hanging wires and each other since the building was opened in 1989.
“The new dispatch area is the best there is for a city the size of Woburn,” said Ferullo. “It (dispatch center) will help us provide for a safer community.”
An upgrade to the dispatch center was mandated by federal and state regulations, with which the old dispatch area did not comply. The project cost slightly less than $1 million and was funded through a state public safety equipment grant and city funds. The city’s portion is between $750,000-$800,000, though in his state-of-the-city address the project is under-budget. The city also recently completed a project to repair the leaky roof at the police station, which had also seen little in the way of significant repairs since the building was opened.
“We’re thankful to the City Council and the Mayor (Scott Galvin) who supported the improvements to the police station financially,” said Ferullo.
Since October, while work has taken place, the dispatch center has been in the records area, and the officer-in-charge’s station has been in what Ferullo referred to as the “baby bunker,” near the conference room adjacent to the chief’s office. The cramped quarters required some adjustments for staff, which was much less visible in the temporary area, as well as visitors.
The new dispatch center is brighter and more visible to the public, though there is the required layer of bullet-resisting glass separating the officers from the lobby. Two of the four dispatch station will be manned at all times, and the other two stations can be occupied during high-profile events like the annual Halloween Parade or the Flag Day celebration at Library Park, the chief said. Officers will be able to observe and respond to traffic issues in live-time scenarios, as well as monitor city buildings and key points of infrastructure like the Rag Rock water tank.
“We’ll have broader, more reliable communications not just within Woburn but with neighboring communities and beyond,” Ferullo said. “I can flip a switch and talk to Provincetown, Springfield, southern New Hampshire, practically anywhere, far easier. It’s technologically correct, and there’s a layer of redundancy. In law enforcement, redundancy is a key.”
The chief said the staff has embraced the new digs with enthusiasm, especially the snack area and the appliances.
“It’s small area, but it’s a good thing to have,” said Ferullo. “Our officers can take a break without exposing the new equipment to the perils of spilled coffee.”