AUBURN — Sheriff Eric Samson raised the possibility Wednesday of three towns shifting their emergency dispatch services to Androscoggin County.

Samson advised county commissioners that he is cautiously optimistic about the new revenue stream and sought their guidance moving forward.

The county, however, would have to spend money upfront to upgrade its system, which could reach into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The availability of $21,000 from a Homeland Security Program grant would help offset some of the initial costs, said Emergency Management Agency Director Joanne Potvin.

The three towns are Sabattus, Wales and Durham.

The Sheriff’s Department has tried for the past few years to consolidate dispatching service in the county, with little success.

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“My attitude when it comes to this is to keep swinging, keep swinging,” Samson said. “Sooner or later, you’ll get a hit.” 

Samson appears to have his hit.

A town manager in Androscoggin County recently met with Samson and County Administrator Larry Post to explore the possibility of switching its emergency calls to Androscoggin County as a way to save tax dollars.

The county would benefit from the dispatch fees it would collect and would likely handle the extra calls without the need of additional staff, Commissioner Randall Greenwood said.

Three agencies in Androscoggin County have dispatch centers. In addition to Androscoggin County, Lewiston and Auburn fund their own 911 dispatch center to answer emergency calls and to dispatch fire, police and ambulance services. The town of Lisbon also has a dispatch center, which handles emergency calls for a few area towns.

The potential grant money became available when Samson and Potvin conferred on how to improve radio communication in the county. The goal was to build in some redundancies by making their systems compatible so there would always be a backup in case of a system failure.

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After the cost of the original plan came in well above the $41,000 available in grant money, they met again to work out an alternative.

“If we can’t do it like we initially wanted, what could we do to maintain some redundancies?” Potvin said. “We now have that taken care of for roughly $20,000. That left me with about $21,000, so I said, ‘Is there a project we can do?'”

The grant money would only pay for part of the communication upgrade, which would also include an improved record management system.

Commissioners were supportive, but they wanted to see more concrete numbers before committing themselves to an upgrade.

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