Scarborough likely to add Old Orchard Beach emergency dispatch

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SCARBOROUGH — The town of Old Orchard Beach is on track to begin using Scarborough’s emergency dispatch service in 2015.

Scarborough town councilors are expected to approve an agreement on Aug. 20 that would require Old Orchard Beach to pay for additional dispatch personnel and start-up costs, totalling about $300,000.

The Old Orchard Beach Town Council on Aug. 5 unanimously approved the contract to switch to Scarborough’s dispatch service from their town’s current regional dispatch arrangement with Sanford.

Town officials believe the proposal, which has been in the works for several years, makes sense because the neighboring towns already share other services, including beach raking and Fire Department mutual aid.

“I think the arrangement we have with Old Orchard Beach is ideal in that we have a close working relationship already. There’s a familiarity that exists,” Town Manager Tom Hall said. 

Old Orchard Beach and Scarborough have never shared dispatch services, although Scarborough has provided public safety answering point (PSAP) services for Old Orchard Beach and other towns.  

PSAPs receive and screen 911 calls before they are forwarded to emergency dispatch. Scarborough still provides PSAP services for Buxton, for example, but Buxton has maintained its own dispatch center. Regionalization and the sharing of these services is the trend, Hall said.

The majority of the cost for adding Old Orchard Beach to Scarborough’s service will be personnel, as the proposal calls for three new dispatchers in addition to a dispatcher hired in the last fiscal year.

Pending approval, Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton said Old Orchard Beach will reimburse the town for all four positions each year, and take on any new equipment and start-up expenses, at a cost of more than $300,000.

Both Moulton and Scarborough Fire Chief Michael Thurlow described the proposal as “a win-win” for Scarborough, because the town is nearing the point of requiring additional dispatchers for its own needs.

“Our community is growing very fast, and Old Orchard Beach swells in the summer,” Moulton said. “For us to both maintain staffing to handle all the needs of each community separately would cost more money than for us to staff together.”

Thurlow said they aim to start services by Feb. 1 of next year, giving the municipalities time to hire new staff and arrange dispatch technology before the busy summer season.

“It’ll be a good time of year after the holidays to do it, when we can ease into it,” he said. 

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.