AUBURN — Beth Bell had been in office for about three months as an Androscoggin County commissioner before she began running for election.

As an appointee filling the remainder of Jonathan LaBonte’s term after he was elected Auburn mayor, she knew she had little time to catch her breath.

“I’m very aware that I haven’t been involved in the political community very long,” said Bell, a real estate broker in Auburn. “But I’m learning a lot. I don’t want to claim that I know all of this stuff.”

The 52-year-old Republican joined the commission just as the emergency dispatching debate was heating up. It became the biggest single issue she faced.

“I really did focus as much energy as I could into learning, talking to my district.” Her district includes the city of Auburn and the towns of Minot, Poland and Mechanic Falls.

The exploration had her touring the local dispatch centers and reading stacks of reports, some going back several years. All of it took time, more than she planned.

“I block out one day a week for the county,” she said. On those Wednesdays, typically, she’ll attend workshops and meetings and do research.

“I feel like we’ve done a good job as a commission,” she said. “I feel that we have worked together well, and I feel that we are in a good place.”

Savings have been found during her tenure. The commission approved about $40,000 in spending this summer that could net $100,000 in savings on fuel costs this year alone. The move took advantage of a dual-use heating system that was made to run on natural gas but was never outfitted.

Last week, the commission unveiled a proposed fee structure for charging communities for emergency call answering and dispatching that may signal an end to the debate, and money has been allocated to update some of the Sheriff’s Department radio equipment.

Times have been tough, too.

Commissioners thought they had a solution to the dispatching issue in June, but were denied by the county’s Budget Committee, which asked commissioners to return with financial forecasts and other data.

“I was a bit surprised how politics really can hold up resolution,” Bell said. “I saw the inefficiency in that at a very painful level.”

Any criticism that’s come her way hasn’t stuck, she said.

“I knew one of the requirements was to be thick-skinned,” she said. “Hey, I’m in sales.”

Like Randall Greenwood, chairman of the County Commission, she opposes the current charter proposal that would reshape county government. She said she opposes its plan to expand the commission to seven members.

“I do agree county government needs to be changed and improved,” she said. “It needs to be much more efficient in the process. I certainly wouldn’t claim to know exactly what needs to be done at this point, but I’m certainly paying attention.”

She holds out a little hope that the county will one day put all of its emergency calls and dispatching in one place, something she advocated after she’d seen every option.

“I still feel that a complete consolidation would be ideal,” she said. “I know we don’t live in an ideal world, but I am not one to give up easily on anything, probably to a fault.”

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