FALMOUTH — Emergency services are about to undergo some major changes.
The Police Department is in the process of adding six new employees – a significant increase for a team of 17 sworn officers.
The hirings come after three long-time members of the department retired and resigned, one patrol position was added into the budget mid-year last year, and two positions were added to cover the anticipated merger of Yarmouth and North Yarmouth dispatch services with Falmouth.
Officials from North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Falmouth are working on the final details of the dispatch merger, which could bring two of Yarmouth’s dispatchers to the Falmouth office.
The deal would have North Yarmouth paying $20,000 and Yarmouth paying $137,000.
The Yarmouth Town Council voted two years ago to utilize dispatch service from Cumberland County, but a citizen petition stopped the move before it could be finalized. Eliminating local dispatch would save Yarmouth approximately $200,000 per year after the first year of initial set-up costs, regardless of whether the town goes through Falmouth or the county.
“Either option was available at about the same price,” Yarmouth Town Manager Nat Tupper said. “The (police and fire) chiefs were far more supportive of going through Falmouth.”
Tupper explained that the initial set-up costs of approximately $123,000 would include equipment purchases and severance payments to employees. He said programs like Project Reassurance, where elderly members of the community call each morning to check in, will continue after the move.
Falmouth will hire two additional dispatchers, possibly from Yarmouth, to handle the increased workload. The two positions will cost the town $100,000, which means Falmouth will see $57,000 in revenue from the project.
“We’ll have two dispatchers in the office (during the day), which we will see as a benefit,” Falmouth Fire Chief Howard Rice said.
Currently, Falmouth dispatch has only one dispatcher on at a time. If a dispatcher is handling several calls and checking people into the office, callers can find hold times are increased.
While a date for the consolidation has not yet been made official, Tupper said he expects it to happen in mid-to-late May.
At the Falmouth Police Department, Lt. John Kilbride said the new hires will be appreciated.
“We’ve been running with minimum staff,” Kilbride said, noting that short staffing means the department had had to rely on officers working overtime to cover shifts.
“It’s not ideal. You don’t want someone tired when you call them in for a shift,” he said.
In addition to the overtime, both Kilbride and Police Chief Edward Tolan have been filling in on patrols. Kilbride said he enjoys the opportunity to get out on the road, but that he will be relieved when the new staff comes on.
“We’ve had to deny vacations,” he said. “You just don’t like to do that.”
Kilbride estimated it will be one year from the day of advertising the positions until the patrol officers are on the road. The lengthy process is partly due to training, but is also due to substantial background checks and psychological testing potential employees must undergo before hitting the streets.
The patrol officer positions were recently advertised and, Kilbride said, the process of hiring has begun.
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org