RUMFORD — Ever since deep cuts to its budget earlier this year, the dispatch center at the Police Department's offices on Congress Street has been closed and its direct phone line disconnected.
For nonemergencies, residents need to use the red telephone provided to contact the Oxford County Regional Communications Center in Paris, which will connect them with a Rumford police officer, a sign on the boarded-up window reads.
The increase in call volume is largely being taken in stride by dispatchers in South Paris, said center director James Miclon.
Since the cuts took effect in July, dispatchers are handling 40 more hours of nonemergency coverage, which was the responsibility of the Rumford Police Department's business window, previously open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
At a county commissioners meeting last month, Miclon brought up the issue and suggested a new system could be arranged to put a direct line to Rumford Police Department in place.
On Wednesday, however, Miclon said that after additional review, the current system, where dispatchers route callers through to Rumford PD's direct extensions, seemed to be working, without placing undue burden on the regional communications center employees.
The practice isn't dissimilar to how dispatchers deal with other nonemergency calls, he said, although it did mark a departure from the ordinary for many Rumford residents, who are used to having a full-service police department.
"I think as the citizens in Rumford start to get used to it, they may deal with it a bit differently," Miclon said.
The sustainability of the approach, especially in the event that the department's dispatch window remains closed for the foreseeable future, will be determined following a larger review of call volume data, Miclon said.
Rumford police Chief Stacy Carter said residents have expressed frustration that the department no longer has office hours or an active phone line.
"It has been a challenge for residents to contact us," Carter admitted.
"It's been kind of a learning curve for them to understand that their calls are now being responded to by OCRCC, and it may take a little longer for us to get back to them because of that."
In June, voters rejected a $817,656 police department budget, among other budget items, in what became a months-long budget showdown between residents and selectmen.
On Tuesday, residents approved a $716,000 budget for the Police Department, among seven other items, in the fourth round of voting since June.
There's no indication that the department will be able to rehire a full-time administrator anytime soon, especially considering it also lost a detective in the budget cuts.
"It's certainly a priority to gain law enforcement personnel back before we regain administrative personnel," Carter said.