GRAY — A shortage of dispatchers is forcing the communications center at the state police barracks in Gray to close and move operations to Augusta, a state official said Wednesday.

Cliff Wells, director of emergency communications at the Maine Department of Public Safety, said the relocation is expected to take place July 23, but the changeover could happen sooner should the staffing shortage worsen.

The Gray dispatchers will move to the Augusta Communications Center where workstations and furniture were put in place when it was built in 2005 to accommodate future expansion, Wells said. Only computer and radio equipment from Gray will have to be moved to Augusta, he said.

The dispatch center on Route 26 is in the Maine State Police barracks at 1 Game Farm Road, where Troop B serves Androscoggin, Cumberland and Oxford counties.

The center has gradually lost some of its dispatchers to county and local dispatch centers because the state’s salary range isn’t competitive with its local and regional counterparts, Wells said, which is an issue the union, not management, would need to address.

Full staffing for the Gray dispatch center is up to 18 full-time workers. Currently, there are 11 and one of them is leaving at the end of June, Wells said. The center hasn’t been at full staff for the past three years.

“That’s a lot to be down,” he said.

Adding to that challenge is a strong job market with low unemployment.

Few have applied for the many vacant positions in Gray, he said, while three times as many in the Augusta area have applied for openings.

“We’ve gone to websites, we’ve gone to social media, we’ve gone to job fairs,” he said. “We are not getting applications for the positions for that place.”

The relocation shouldn’t affect the dispatching abilities of the staff, Wells said. And with an improved radio system in Maine that updated from analogue to digital, response times haven’t been better.

There are three dispatch centers in Maine, not including Gray: Augusta, Bangor and Houlton. If any of these centers were to go down, the others could field their 911 calls.

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Maine State Police Troop B barracks on Route 26 in Gray. The communications center at the barracks is closing, but state police will still operate from the building. (Google street view image)

 


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