The leaders of Winthrop’s public safety departments are refuting opinions stated in a piece in last week’s Sun-Transcript that the town’s fire and police departments are not interested in advancing regionalization efforts in Winthrop, Revere, and Chelsea.
In a joint interview, Police Chief Terence Delehanty and Fire Chief Paul Flanagan said the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s study of regionalization, announced at a press conference on March 22 by Speaker Robert DeLeo at Town Hall, focuses on improving services in public health, veterans services, public works, and libraries – with no mention of police or fire departments in the original press release.
“But we want to make it clear that the police and fire departments are both in the midst of conversations with their regional partners to develop a more regional approach to public safety,” said Delehanty.
The police chief added that there is a $150,000 metro mayors coalition grant for a regional dispatch center that would include police and fire departments from several communities. Flanagan said that he is representing Winthrop in discussions for the proposed dispatch center that would likely be based in Somerville.
Delehanty and Flanagan, who regularly attend Town Council meetings and are visible at many town events, question the Transcript writer’s contention that police and fire department officials have been “conspicuously absent” from all discussions about the consolidation of police and fire departments.
Both chiefs felt that some readers could draw the inference that they were intentionally absent from the press conference at Town Hall.
“We were simply not invited to the press conference,” said Flanagan.
Delehanty said his department is already participating in several regionalized policing efforts. “We belong to the Metro Gang Task Force with 11 other communities,” he said. “We have a regional drug task force that our detectives are a part of. To say that we’re not interested in regional approaches and that unions are stalemating the regionalization of public safety is just incorrect.”
Delehanty said the police union has never spoken against any of the regional efforts “and I don’t think we’ll be speaking against the regional efforts going forward.”
Flanagan affirmed his department’s support of regionalization efforts.
“We’ll do nothing but make regionalization efforts in public safety work to Winthrop’s advantage,” said Flanagan.
Delehanty said his department will follow the lead of Town Manager James McKenna on the regionalization issue.
“It’s really not appropriate to expound on regionalization until we know what the texture of the regionalization plan is going to be,” said Delehanty. “That’s what our town manager does. He meets with mayors and other town and city managers to find out what part of government we can regionalize and then when we know from him [McKenna] what areas we need to negotiate, we will start negotiations with our unions. At this point in time, it’s premature.”
It was clear that Flanagan and Delehanty have done their homework on the regionalization issue. Flanagan cited a regionalization comparison between the State of Maryland and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
“Maryland has 26 emergency dispatch (9-1-1) centers – Massachusetts has 263 centers,” said Flanagan, adding that there could be considerable savings for the town in regionalized public safety efforts.
“That’s why we’re exploring the issue,” said Delehanty. “That’s what this feasibility process is all about.”