DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Piscataquis County has waited long enough.
That’s the message Sheriff John Goggin has for the state’s Emergency Services Communication Bureau regarding his department’s long-awaited conversion to the state’s Enhanced-911 system for cellular telephones.
“The way I feel about it is that we’re just being put back on the bottom of the totem pole really,” Goggin said Thursday. “Piscataquis County just doesn’t seem to register far up on that pole when anything comes out of Augusta.”
If a 911 call is made on a land line telephone in the Piscataquis County region, it is routed to the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department. Emergency 911 cellular telephone calls from the area, however, are routed to the Maine State Police barracks in Orono. The dispatcher there either radios for a state trooper to respond to the complaint or forwards it to the Sheriff’s Department.
County officials say that has caused delays in emergency response on more than one occasion.
Goggin said if a cellular 911 complaint is handed to a trooper and the trooper is outside the region, callers sometimes call the Sheriff’s Department on a land telephone to ask why it’s taking so long for a response. Goggin said some people who have made 911 cellular calls have flagged down deputies, asking why they didn’t respond.
“They don’t differentiate between uniforms. They’re looking for a police officer, and when they call 911 they just want a police officer to respond to their complaint, and they don’t want to wait half an hour or 45 minutes or longer,” Goggin said.
“We’ve quite frequently taken the heat, individual officers have taken the heat, and I’ve gotten calls where people have said to me, personally, they didn’t think it was right that their family member or someone close to them had to wait so long for a police officer to respond.”
Maria Jacques, director of the Emergency Services Communication Bureau, said Tuesday she hadn’t heard of any problems regarding the dispatch of cellular telephone calls in Piscataquis County. She said she believes state police have handled the calls well. However, she said she recognizes that the county is eager for the switch so emergency cell phone calls go directly to the county dispatcher.
“I can appreciate the department feeling that they’re being ignored, but their request is in; it’s not lost,” Jacques said. She said when her department completes the process at the Department of Public Safety in Gray and Central Maine Regional Communications Center in Augusta, then work will be done to upgrade other answering points.
Rerouting cell phone traffic is much different from rerouting land line traffic, Jacques said. Land line traffic involves only the state and the service provider, which is FairPoint Communications. Cellular traffic rerouting involves the state, FairPoint, and each cell carrier individually, she said. “It’s a very cumbersome project; it takes a long time.”
That does little to pacify Goggin, whose department installed all the necessary equipment for the conversion years ago.
“We’re just concerned about the level of service that can be provided to the taxpayers of Piscataquis County that they’re not receiving and could be receiving,” Goggin said. “It just keeps being put off for some unknown reason.”