Lisbon details plan to take over Androscoggin County dispatching

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LISBON — In a bid to end more than a decade of talk and deliberation, Lisbon leaders pitched a plan Wednesday to take over dispatching for Androscoggin County, saying it could save money for every town in the county.

Lisbon Police Chief David Brooks and Town Manager Steve Eldridge said they could dispatch the county’s patrol deputies, jail transportation personnel and civil process workers for $360,000 a year, a savings of more than $225,000.

The town’s current dispatch center could double its work stations from two to four, hire needed staff and immediately talk to all personnel in the field, Brooks said. 

“We can bring in two more positions in here without any difficulty whatsoever because that’s the way we were originally designed,” he said. Its radio equipment is the same model and year as the county’s. “Everything is already in place here.”

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There is a catch, though.

Lisbon cannot replace everything the county’s dispatch center currently does, Brooks said. Its plan would leave individual towns to contract with another communications center to answer its 911 calls, to perform the duties of so-called “public safety answering points” or PSAPs.

All towns would need to contract for fire and rescue dispatching. Sabattus, Mechanic Falls and Livermore Falls, who have their own police departments but have relied on the county for dispatching, would have to contract out for that too.

The information came Wednesday in the final stop on the County Commission’s tour of local dispatching.

The three commissioners met two weeks ago with Sheriff Guy Desjardins and Patrol Chief Raymond Lafrance. Last week, they met with Phyllis Jensen, who heads Lewiston-Auburn 911.

“We’re looking at alternatives,” Commission Chairman Randall Greenwood said.

One choice would be to perform a needed upgrade of the county’s technology. Another would be to contract with Lewiston-Auburn 911, which answers 911 calls and dispatches for agencies in Lewiston and Auburn.

Wednesday’s tour of the Lisbon center took less than five minutes, with commissioners and about a dozen local leaders looking at the town’s facility. It sits just inside the entrance to the Police Department, locked behind bulletproof glass and steel-reinforced cinder block walls.

Currently, the center has at least one dispatcher working around the clock. An expansion would mean at least two at a time.

When the tour ended, the group crowded into a conference room where it met for two hours. The group included town managers from Sabattus, Mechanic Falls and Greene. They listened as Brooks and Eldridge explained their numbers.

Most attendees said they would likely support the Lisbon option unless the county came up with a cheaper plan. There was less support for going to the Lewiston-Auburn center.

“There is zero comfort level with going to L-A 911,” Sabattus Town Manager Andrew Gilmore said. “That’s not even an option for us.”

The cost projections detailed by the cities’ center would raise prices in every town.

In Sabattus, for instance, the price for dispatching would rise from its current cost of $18,876 to $102,332 after four years. That number would include answering 911 calls. It also comes from a plan that would spread costs out across every town in the county, including Lisbon.

Mechanic Falls Town Manager John Hawley said he too would support the Lisbon plan over the Lewiston-Auburn 911 plan.

“Their (pricing) scale is just not affordable for us,” Hawley said.

Greenwood said he and the commission hope to make a decision about dispatching “soon.”

Greene Town Manager Charles Noonan said the time for debate is running out.

“We would really like to see you move on this and move on it quickly,” Noonan said.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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