AUBURN, Maine— Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy Desjardins choked up Wednesday as he asked leaders to close the decades-old county dispatch center. And decide it quickly.
“There are nine souls who work there,” Desjardins told the county commission. “They deserve to know what’s going to happen.”
On Wednesday, commissioners had no answers as they listened to Desjardins’ recommendation to close the county’s center and move its duties to the Lewiston-Auburn 911 center.
“I need to stress the importance of making a decision,” he said. “The worst decision is to make no decision at all.”
Instead, all three commissioners said they will be ready to make a final decision on the decade-old controversy at their next meeting at 6 p.m. May 17.
“I’m ready to vote,” Commissioner Beth Bell said. “I’m ready to get this done.”
For years, the county’s 14 municipalities have differed over how emergency dispatching might be best solved.
Currently, the county’s dispatch center answers land line emergency calls for 12 of the county’s 14 towns, serving as a public safety answering point or PSAP. The county center communicates with its deputies, police officers in Mechanic Falls, Sabattus and Livermore and with fire departments in seven small towns.
This year, with the county’s dispatching equipment nearing the end of its life, the issue has become critical.
Desjardins had refrained from commenting on which choice he liked best: staying put, moving to Lisbon or merging with Lewiston-Auburn 911.
The L-A option’s price was too good and offered a simple transition for the departments, who now share a common computer system. The cost of separating those systems, needed if the county contracted with Lisbon, was estimated at $273,000 on the first year alone. After that, the cost would be $73,000 each year, Desjardins said.
“We would be totally divorcing ourselves from Lewiston-Auburn,” he said.
Currently, county deputies and the two cities’ police officers share information in a common system, including reports, booking information and the location of patrols. All of that would be lost in a divorce, Capt. Ray Lafrance, who leads the county’s patrol division, said.
Commissioners did not rule out such a move, however.
On Tuesday, the Lisbon Town Council voted 5-1 to maintain its own dispatch center rather than consider merging with L-A 911. Selectmen in Durham have also voted not to follow the county to L-A 911, should commissioners decide on that path.
“I’m very disappointed that Lisbon, right out of the gate, is saying, ‘We’re not going to play in the sandbox with anyone else,’” Bell said.
The County Commission is expected to discuss details of the various plans in a workshop scheduled for 9 a.m. May 16. The years of analysis are nearly done, they said.
“With the exception of a couple of pieces, I really don’t want anymore information,” Commissioner Elaine Makas said. “My brain is full.”
(c)2012 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)
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