Study looks at countywide costs

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AUBURN – Combining countywide dispatch services under one roof will cost at least $3.5 million the first year, according to a new study.

Local towns and emergency service agencies must decide if they want to join up – and how to divide the bill if they do.

“It’s up to the elected officials now,” said Andy D’Eramo, director of Lewiston-Auburn 911.

The 911 call centers for Lisbon, Androscoggin County and Lewiston-Auburn have until fall 2007 to combine their emergency answering services. The state will only pay for two answering services in the county after that.

But town and county officials have talked about going further and combining dispatch services for the 14 municipalities under one roof. The group hired SSI Services to study how much that would cost.

According to the report, a new combined countywide emergency call and dispatch center would cost $1.2 million in new equipment and buildings and $2.3 million in operating costs. D’Eramo said both estimates are low, and he’s expecting an amended report back from SSI Services before June.

The county and municipal dispatch centers now pay $2,075,709 for emergency dispatching services, but that’s only for personnel costs. The figure doesn’t include costs to update equipment, maintain buildings or the like.

The SSI study also outlines three ways to divide emergency dispatch costs among the communities: by calls for service, by population or by assessed value.

Lewiston and Auburn would pay more if the cost were based on the number of calls. According to the report, the Twin Cities have more than 100,000 calls to 911 per year, about 60 percent of the county total. Lewiston would pay about $1.4 million and Auburn would pay $992,000 under that plan.

Durham, Greene, Leeds, Livermore, Minot, Poland, Turner and Wales would pay the least under the per-call plan.

Lewiston, Lisbon, Livermore Falls and Mechanic Falls would all pay less if the costs were divided by assessed value. Auburn pays the least if the costs are divided by population.

“Those are the big decisions that these elected officials need to make,” D’Eramo said. He plans to schedule a meeting with the communities in the next six weeks.

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