AUBURN — Androscoggin County’s communications and dispatch center and the Lewiston-Auburn 911 Emergency Communications System may merge into a single entity under a proposal from Auburn Mayor Jeff Harmon.

Harmon made a presentation Wednesday to the Androscoggin County Commission to discuss how such a plan could work, potential financial models and where they could find savings.

With Auburn planning to build a new public safety building and the county planning to move the sheriff’s department, including the dispatch center to Center Street, Harmon told the commissioners that consolidating 911 services should be explored by Auburn, Lewiston and the county.

“This seems like an appropriate time to have a conversation about whether consolidation is a potential avenue that the three legislative bodies could agree on and potentially save $3 million in construction costs and not build communication buildings a mile apart from one another,” Harmon said.

The proposed combined 911 center would be under the jurisdiction of the county.

The cost for the two centers combined is now $3.7 million., Harmon said. The county’s budget is $1.3 million and the L-A 911 center costs $2.4 million.


Two representatives each from Auburn, Lewiston and the county have held a handful of meetings to brainstorm possible solutions to combine both centers, Harmon said.

Harmon and Auburn City Administrator Phil Crowell attended the commissioners’ meeting, but no one from Lewiston attended.

When Commissioner Edouard Plourde of Lewiston asked if the city councils in both cities were aware of the discussion, Harmon said they were.

Harmon added that it was important that the consolidation “works for Auburn, works for Lewiston and works for the county.”

“Obviously, lots of operational discussions have to take place to try to identify how you might put together a consolidated system,” he said.

The working model being discussed is to have the communication center become a department under county jurisdiction with a director reporting to the county administrator. A separate policy board would be formed to determine operational guidelines.


Among the issues that need to be worked out is how to combine the employees under one umbrella.

This is not the first time consolidating the two agencies has been discussed. Sheriff Eric Samson, who also is now interim county administrator, proposed a merger in 2021, but the plan went nowhere.

How to pay for it is still under consideration. Harmon presented different models for the commissioners to consider. The price for service could be determined by population, valuation, call volume or added fees. Lisbon handling much of their own dispatching and Poland contracting for services could complicate a countywide cost determination, unless that changes.

Because county taxes paid by Auburn and Lewiston residents help pay for the county dispatch system not utilized by the two cities, the county added a fee structure for the other county municipalities to lessen the amount of money collected by taxes.

“Lewiston and Auburn could argue that they are now subsidizing county operations,” Samson said. “They will experience the most savings. But how will this work for everybody? What’s the happy medium?”

“The funding is up to the commission and the city councils,” he added.

Still in the early stages and with lots of planning and decisions required in the next few months before a merger becomes a reality, Harmon is convinced that combining 911 services makes perfect sense.

“I feel there is a clear benefit,” Harmon said. “There’s a construction cost benefit. And just from good governance standpoint, the thought that you need two 911 dispatch centers a mile from each other in a county of 124,000 people seems like common sense.”

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