Dispatch group uses funding models

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LEWISTON – The Twin Cities could end up paying more for regional emergency dispatch services, according to one financial model being considered by a study group.

The group studying ways to create a single dispatch service across Androscoggin County is testing financial models, according to City Administrator Jim Bennett.

“We have four or five factors down in a computer model that show how the spending would be broken down and who would pay what,” Bennett said. “The next step is having a discussion about what is fair.”

The Androscoggin County Dispatch Committee, appointed by regional cities, towns and the county government, has been studying ways to provide a single dispatch service for police, fire and medical emergencies since January.

It is a continuation of last year’s statewide effort to combine 911 call-answering centers. Androscoggin County now has two centers – Lewiston-Auburn and the Sheriff’s Department.

There are still several agencies that dispatch emergency services, however. A study released a year ago found $400,000 in savings if those dispatch services were combined.

The committee has already considered how to create management for the new dispatch center. Each city would get to name representatives to a board of directors.

But figuring out how much each community would pay for the service is a different issue.

“One suggestion was that we base our assessment on calls for service,” Bennett said. But that’s difficult to judge because rural communities may not track call statistics the same way that the more urban Lewiston and Auburn do.

“What the group seems to be leaning toward is a model based on population and valuations,” Bennett said. That would tip the pay scale toward the more heavily populated Twin Cities.

Lewiston and Auburn each pay $949,649 to support their combined 911 call center and dispatch service. Bennett didn’t say if the Twin Cities would pay more or less than that under the population and valuation model.

“But there are several discussions we still need to have,” Bennett said. The group is scheduled to meet again July 27. The group is hoping to finish its report by September.

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