AUBURN – A group charged with creating a single dispatch center – a hub for police, fire and rescue calls in Androscoggin County’s 14 towns – is likely to be disbanded by county leaders.

The reason: The group stopped making progress when money came up.

“There was a lot of discussion and good work before it unraveled,” County Commissioner Jonathan LaBonte said.

After two years of meetings, the group delivered an incomplete report last summer, not answering the question of how a consolidated center would be funded. Debate has continued with little progress, LaBonte and Commissioners Elaine Makas and Randall Greenwood said Wednesday.

In recent weeks, leaders in several towns – Sabattus, Turner, Wales, Mechanic Falls, Leeds and Greene – have submitted letters to the county calling for the group to be disbanded.

“I want to kill this committee,” LaBonte said Wednesday at a night meeting of the commission.

A vote to terminate the committee will be on the agenda for the commission’s next meeting, scheduled for April 1. Commissioners plan to invite members of the committee to the meeting and will ask its co-chairmen, Lewiston City Administrator Jim Bennett and Minot Fire Chief Steve French, to make a brief presentation.

“We owe them this courtesy before we make this step,” Greenwood said. “We’d like some formal closure.”

The 17-member committee has done lots of work, analyzing the way Lewiston-Auburn handles its emergency calls in a center beneath Auburn’s central fire station and comparing the work to the county’s dispatching of the other towns from its outdated center on Turner Street.

Talks seemed to hit a wall when the discussion began to look at who would pay for the new center. Every formula seemed to favor either the small towns or Lewiston and none wanted to pay more money.

When the committee released its draft report last July, it left the money questions out.

On April 1, French and Bennett will have about 30 minutes to wrap up their work. The presentation will take place at a daytime meeting of the commission.

Commissioner Makas asked Greenwood and LaBonte to put off the discussion until April 15, when another night meeting is scheduled.

“I want to make sure that the people who want to attend can attend,” she said. She was outvoted, 2-1.

Waiting any longer would only put off the inevitable end to the committee’s work, LaBonte said. It would also put off discussion about what to do next, he said.

Joanne Potvin, a member of the committee and the director of the county’s emergency management agency, encouraged the commissioners to move ahead and end the committee.

“It’s already dead,” she said. “Let’s just bury it.”


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