BUCKSPORT, Maine — Councilors on Thursday decided to keep all of the town’s dispatch services in town.
A committee had studied the idea of contracting the dispatching duties for the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift to an outside entity. But despite a savings in such an approach, the committee recommended keeping all of the dispatch services.
The committee met with representatives from the regional communication centers in Penobscot and Hancock counties, according to Town Manager Roger Raymond. Only Hancock County presented a proposal. That would have cost the town $9,000 for the rest of this year, starting probably in June. Raymond estimated it would cost the town between $14,000 and $16,000 for a full year. There also would have been a capital cost of about $10,000 to install equipment to make the switch possible.
The town will have a vacancy in the dispatch department when longtime dispatcher Byron Vinton retires. The cost to the town for that one shift will run between $44,000 and $55,000, depending on who is hired to fill it.
“We’ve been blessed with having Byron for 15 years,” Raymond told counselors Thursday. “He not only dispatched, but he saw to it that we were technically up to date all the time.”
The proposal from Hancock County was “excellent,” Raymond said, but despite the anticipated savings, the committee recommended keeping all of the dispatching with the town for now.
“The citizens in Bucksport have not expressed a desire to outsource dispatching due to the cost or the quality of service,” he said. “In fact, significant support for local dispatch continues.”
Raymond noted that a recent survey conducted by the police department showed “very strong” support for the dispatch department.
Dispatchers handled more than 1,700 walk-in calls during the 12-month period ending in December. That type of personal service would have been lost during the late-night shift if dispatching for the shift had been outsourced. The live dispatcher would have been replaced by a call box, Raymond said.
“It’s the little things that dispatch does for the system that would be lost,” he said.
Councilors agreed with the committee’s recommendation to keep dispatching local, but balked at spending up to $10,000 to install equipment so that if and when the town decided to outsource dispatching, the equipment would be in place.
Councilor David Keane questioned whether the town needed to spend the money right now. He asked if the technology might change before the town decided to make the switch.
“Something else might come up to spend that $10,000 on,” he said.
Funds are available in the dispatch reserve account, so the purchase of the equipment would not have an effect on the tax burden, Raymond said. But, he noted, one advantage of not purchasing the equipment now is that it would not commit the town to one particular regional dispatch center.
Councilors voted 6-0 to keep dispatching local without the purchase of the new equipment.