Choice over dispatch sent back to the county

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LEWISTON — The choice over where to locate Androscoggin County’s emergency communications hub is going back to the three-member county commission.

In about two weeks, leaders of the emergency dispatch committee plan to submit their formal report to the commissioners.

It will suggest a revolving governance structure for a new unified dispatching center, with local fire and police chiefs sitting on an oversight board. That structure had the unanimous support of the committee, said Chairman David Brooks, who serves as Lisbon’s police chief.

Finding consensus was harder on the other big issue: location.

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Despite promises of a committee recommendation for where to put the hub, the committee splintered during a two-hour-plus meeting on Monday afternoon.

The group had been looking at three possible plans, meant in large part to replace the aging equipment now being used by dispatchers in the county building in Auburn.

The first plan would update dispatching somewhere in the county building. The second would relocate the dispatching to Lisbon’s communication center in the town complex on Route 196. The third option would have the county take over dispatching countywide from the Lewiston-Auburn 911 center in Auburn, located beneath the city’s central fire station on Minot Avenue.

When they tallied the votes for the three plans Monday, there was one vote for staying at the county building, four for L-A 911 and six for the Lisbon option.

Brooks, a supporter of the move to Lisbon, believes dispatching must eventually be consolidated countywide. But county government is unprepared to take on L-A 911’s $2 million budget, he said.

“We need to start slow and take this one step at a time,” Brooks said.

The submission of the group’s report is likely to kick off a public discussion over dispatching, said Randall Greenwood, chairman of the county commission. Hearings on the issue are likely.

“We now need to find out what people want to do,” he said.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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