Falmouth, Yarmouth may share dispatch

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FALMOUTH — Yarmouth and Falmouth may soon be sharing dispatch services at the Falmouth Police Department.

The consolidation would save Falmouth about $60,000 a year while keeping the service local, rather than joining Cumberland County to cut costs, Falmouth Town Manager Nathan Poore said last week.

Of the 800 Falmouth residents who completed an on-line survey about municipal services recently, 67 percent said they wanted to keep dispatch services in town, Poore said.

Yarmouth stands to save even more with the proposed arrangement – between $115,000 and $130,000 the first year and $240,000 annually thereafter, Yarmouth Town Manager Nat Tupper said last week.

“It is pretty significant,” Tupper said. “Falmouth priced it that way to make it an attractive offer. And Falmouth will provide us with some protection if they (later) choose to move to county (dispatch).”

Five Yarmouth dispatch employees would lose their jobs in the arrangement, although Tupper said he expects at least a couple of them would be hired by Falmouth.

According to Poore, two factors contribute to the difference in the towns’ savings.

“First, Yarmouth’s budget for dispatching service is currently $60,000 more than what Falmouth spends on an annual basis,” he said in a Feb. 9 e-mail message. “Falmouth also recognized that Yarmouth could not justify a move to Falmouth if its costs were significantly different compared to the cost proposed by the County.”

Falmouth also included in its analysis the cost of hiring an additional full-time administrative assistant if the town transferred dispatching services to the county, Poore said.

If Falmouth chooses to go to the county for dispatch service, it could save even more – an estimated $100,000 a year, Poore said. But the move would reduce some services, including public access to the police station at any time of day.

The Falmouth Town Council discussed the proposal briefly at its last meeting, giving Poore the go-ahead to pursue the agreement, pending a decision from the Yarmouth Town Council.

Though a vote is not expected, Yarmouth councilors on Thursday, Feb. 18, are expected to discuss the proposal and consider going forward with it, Tupper said. The discussion was originally on the council’s last agenda, but the meeting was postponed for lack of a quorum.

Two years ago, the Yarmouth council voted to contract for county dispatch service, but residents petitioned and overrode the decision.

Tupper said “there was not much debate” that they would prefer to go with Falmouth over the county. In addition to being less expensive, the plan would give more opportunities for police from both towns to work together, it would provide additional services and dispatch would remain closer to the center of Yarmouth.

If approved by the councils, the shared dispatch could start before July, when the next fiscal year begins.

“We would not be compromising the public safety in any way; if you call 911 and need fire and rescue that would be invisible, seamless to citizens and responders,” Tupper said. “The chiefs would be much more comfortable with Falmouth than with the county.”

Poore said he notified Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane “as a courtesy” of the possible dispatch arrangement between the two towns. Cumberland now gets dispatch services from the county, but Poore said there would be room for the town to join Falmouth and Yarmouth.

“I think this is just a fantastic opportunity to save both communities a substantial amount of money,” Poore said. “It utilizes state-of-the-art systems we’ve built into our facility and provides the level of service the public wants.”