HOULTON, Maine — The Maine Public Utilities Commission has approved a request from Aroostook County for the Penobscot Regional Communications Center to answer land line E-911 calls originating in Aroostook County.
The move is expected to save money, but one or two employees could lose their job at Houlton Regional Communications Center, Cliff Wells, director of the Department of Public Safety Consolidated Emergency Communications Bureau, said this week.
Houlton is the public safety answering point for Aroostook County. Dispatchers there provide E-911 and dispatch services for police, fire and emergency medical services.
Emergency cell phone calls still are expected to be answered through the Houlton center, and dispatching services also will continue at that facility.
The plan with Penobscot County was hatched late last year to cut costs, and Aroostook County Administrator Doug Beaulieu told County commissioners at a meeting earlier this week that he was pleased the PUC had authorized the arrangement.
Officials have said the move will not delay response times and will cost Aroostook County $180,000 annually, saving the county $80,000 in the first year. Over five years, the county is expected to save an estimated $300,000.
The change came after the state Department of Public Safety in February filed a request with the PUC to set the rate for public safety answering points at $3.54 per capita, which would have translated to an annual cost of $261,741 for Aroostook County.
This was higher than the $189,768 for services The County had set aside for the 2009 fiscal year.
The commissioners eventually decided to contract with Penobscot County for $180,000 a year.
Final details are expected to be hammered out by the time officials from both counties meet to sign memorandums of understanding regarding the agreement.
The transition is expected to occur by July.