The Freeport Town Council made a difficult decision when it voted to contract with Brunswick for emergency dispatch service. I commend this action. Little is so central and personal in the public sphere as public safety, so this vote was not an easy one for councilors. Structural change is never easy, particularly if the work at stake has been done well. However, were an observer given a blank page to design a dispatch system, I see no likelihood of creating the common pattern of independent dispatch units in every town. New technological tools are too powerful. Cost savings are too large. Benefits of a larger dispatch facility are too great.
For consolidation to succeed, two tests must be passed: Will the current level of public safety be maintained, and will the non-emergency services provided by local dispatchers continue?
I am not aware of any substantive argument that consolidation will diminish public safety, particularly if the institutional knowledge of current Freeport dispatchers can be incorporated in Brunswick. Non-emergency services of a guardianship nature, such as regular calls checking on disabled or disadvantaged residents, are less known but equally important. Freeport dispatchers deserve enormous credit for the personal contact they have maintained with those who need help, but it is a disservice to imply other dispatchers in other towns lack similar ability or compassion. Residents have been clear what they expect. There is no reason these expectations cannot be met with a well-designed and well-managed consolidated dispatch service.