BANGOR, Maine — City councilors set a date of Nov. 8 for a referendum vote on whether to consolidate emergency dispatch services with Penobscot County.
In a 7-2 decision on Wednesday, councilors concluded that the city does not need to rush to have the matter decided and that a November election likely ensures the highest possible turnout.
Councilors Cary Weston and Charles Longo voted against the order, indicating that they preferred having the citywide vote in June to bring closure on a long-running debate.
Last fall, councilors decided to begin the process of moving the city’s dispatch operation to Penobscot Regional Communications Center. The city had been discussing the idea for a number of years as a way to save money, but before now there was never enough support.
After the council’s vote last fall, petitioner Jim Morrill, a Bangor dispatcher, began gathering signatures to force a citywide vote to overturn the decision. Morrill said moving dispatchers from Bangor to Penobscot County would affect services and threaten safety.
His petition drive was successful in January, prompting councilors to begin the discussion of when to schedule a vote.
Both Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia and Fire Chief Jeff Cammack urged councilors not to make any changes, and Gastia even signed Morrill’s petition.
Nearly every other community in Penobscot County is a member of regional dispatch, which is paid for by county taxes. Bangor taxpayers account for about 25 percent of all county taxes, which means that they have been paying for services they don’t use.