Cities, county dispute over 911 dispatch

Dispute centers over spending money to keep dispatch centers local or move to a regional system

By Scott Taylor
The Sun Journal 

LEWISTON, Maine — The Twin Cities will take their arguments to have regional emergency communications centered around their L-A 911 Dispatch Center to the Androscoggin County Budget Committee.

Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett and interim Auburn City Manager Don Gerrish drafted a letter to the Budget Committee urging them to reconsider the County Commission's May 23 decision to keep dispatch in-house and to spend $350,000 for capital upgrades to the system.

"For a long time we've been helping to subsidize emergency dispatching services to a lot of other communities in the county,"

Lewiston's Barrett said Friday. "Our biggest concern is that there is a lack of detail in terms of the direction the commissioners are going and how they are charging for service and how they would handle the cost of public safety call answering."

Both city councils reviewed the letter at their meeting Thursday night. The letter is similar to one provided to commissioners by Twin Cities officials on May 23.

Lewiston and Auburn both pay $1.04 million to fund their own center to answer 911 calls and to dispatch fire, police and ambulance response. The cities also pay property taxes to Androscoggin County and a portion of those taxes go to support the county's dispatch service. The county dispatches for the Androscoggin County sheriff and other police and fire departments in the county.

County officials have been looking for ways to modernize the county system and settled on three options: contracting with L-A 911, contracting with the town of Lisbon for dispatch services or continuing county dispatch but charging a fee to towns and agencies that get county service.

That's the option commissioners adopted last week. To be able to charge for that service, they also approved $350,000 for new dispatching equipment, consoles and radios. That money is available in county reserve accounts, and commissioners need approval from the county Budget Committee to spend it.

The nine member Budget Committee is made up of six residents from Lewiston-Auburn.

"But 51 percent of that $350,000 came from us, so we should have a say in how it is spent," Mayor Jonathon LaBonte said.

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