County inches toward dispatching solution

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AUBURN — Androscoggin County might give up its status as a 911 answering point but continue to operate a dispatching service to its own deputies and corrections personnel, under a new plan unveiled Wednesday.

Even if the county spends money to upgrade its dispatching technology, it will be able to perform the service at a lower cost to towns than any other option, said Elaine Makas, the Lewiston commissioner who authored the plan.

“I’m recommending that we keep under our own roof the services that are required by law to provide,” Makas said, “and we let the small towns choose where they want to go to (answer their 911 calls).”

No decision was made Wednesday about the plan. However, one is coming, insisted Chairman Randall Greenwood.

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“I think with another couple of workshops we will be ready to make a decision on what’s best for dispatching and/or (911 answering) for Androscoggin County,” Greenwood said. “I’m hoping that within a couple of weeks we would have an answer.”

The debates and discussion over the future of local 911 answering and dispatching has gone back as much as a decade. This year, with the Sheriff’s Department leaders insisting that equipment needs replacing, the matter has become a top priority.

Over three weeks, the three-member commission has toured the county facilities, Lewiston-Auburn’s dispatch center and Lisbon’s center.

Currently, the county center serves as the 911 answering point for 12 of the county’s 14 municipalities. The Makas plan would send that job back to the individual towns to contract with one of Maine’s 25 other Public Safety Answering Points. By only dispatching to its own staff, the county would save in personnel and equipment costs, she said.

In Wales, for instance, the town of about 1,600 would pay almost $6,900 for dispatching and equipment upgrades in 2013 and about $3,200 for 911 answering at the lowest known rate of $2 per capita, currently given to Kennebec County towns by Somerset County’s communications center.

Going to Lisbon, LA 911 and or keeping comprehensive service at the county would cost more, Makas said.

Greenwood and Commissioner Beth Bell said they plan to examine these numbers and the alternatives.

“I’d like to see (dispatching) remain a county function if that makes sense,” Bell said.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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