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Freeport budget retains emergency dispatch, at least temporarily

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Freeport budget retains emergency dispatch, at least temporarily

FREEPORT — After exploring the possibility of consolidating emergency dispatch services with the county, town councilors on Tuesday night assured residents there will be funding for local dispatch in next year's budget.

But the reprieve may be short-lived. Councilors scheduled meetings in June to discuss the future of town-operated dispatch and suggested consolidation could come as soon as the 2011 budget cycle.

The Town Council is scheduled to adopt a budget for fiscal 2010 next Tuesday, May 26.

Nearly 50 people crowded the public budget hearing Tuesday in Town Hall chambers to express support for keeping the dispatch center in Freeport instead of consolidating with the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center in Windham.

Adam Nappi, owner of Bow Street market, said as a business owner the benefits of local dispatch outweigh any tax savings that may be realized by a move to the county.  He said the Freeport dispatch is a "nerve center and a service center," and said it is a benefit of working and living in the community.

Other residents told stories of how the quick and personal response from employees at the dispatch center saved homes from fire and residents from death.

Council Chairman Rich DeGrandpre assured residents that the proposed operating budget does not remove dispatch services, although there was a workshop analyzing consolidation costs on May 5.

"We need to have an honest discussion about what works and what doesn't," DeGrandpre said.

Town Manager Dale Olmstead said the council has discussed the possibility of moving dispatch to Windham for four years, and it is now the time to end the uncertainty and make a decision.

After the budget is adopted next Tuesday, councilors will have another regular meeting June 2. On June 9, there will be a workshop to discuss dispatch with representatives of the local fire and police departments and the county dispatch center. Another council meeting will be held June 23 to vote on whether to retain dispatch in the future.

DeGrandpre said there has been public confusion surrounding the dispatch situation, and urged the public to read the dispatch presentation posted on the town's Web site. He encouraged residents to visit the Freeport and Windham dispatch centers to gather information and ask questions. Olmstead said questions could be mailed or e-mailed to him so the appropriate people can respond at the workshop.

The proposed 2010 budget is $18.4 million, a reduction from this year of $71,000. The projected tax rate for next year is $12.60  per $1,000 of assessed value, a decrease of 15 cents from the 2009 budget. Emergency dispatch in 2010 will cost the town $240,000.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net.