Yarmouth council backs dispatch merger with Falmouth; public hearing on March 1

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council voted 6-1 on Feb. 18 to support a merger of emergency dispatch services with Falmouth rather than the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center in Windham.

No final decision had been made. A public hearing is set for March 1.

About two years ago the Town Council voted to contract for dispatch from the county, but a citizen petition and referendum vote overruled the decision. The petition, started by residents and members of the Fire Department and dispatch center, allowed the service to remain in Yarmouth with a reduced staff.

Town Manager Nat Tupper said the dispatch program is successful and there are no complaints. But consolidation could save the town about $200,000 a year.

“This is a money-driven proposition,” he said. “It is to lessen the impact on the tax rate this year and years beyond.”

Police Chief Mike Morrill said regionalization is inevitable, and service mergers will become more common in the future. He said he would endorse a merger with Falmouth because the communities are similar, close in proximity and work well together.

“The average citizen will not notice any difference in services,” he said. “The operations will be seamless.”

If the council votes to consolidate with Falmouth, five employees would lose their jobs, Tupper said, although Falmouth has agreed to take on two dispatchers.

Sgt. Daniel Gallant, vice president of the Yarmouth police and dispatch union, said it would be preferable to retain dispatch service in town. But given political and economic pressures, his group would support the Falmouth option.

“Our support also mirrors the carefully researched recommendations of both Police Chief Morrill and Fire Chief (Byron) Fairbanks, who have provided decades of unselfish and professional service to the Town of Yarmouth,” he said.

Tupper said the net tax savings for 2010-2011 would be $184,000, a nearly identical savings if county services were used.

Councilor Carl Winslow, a former fire chief, cast the only dissenting vote. He said he would prefer a merger with the county over Falmouth, and is concerned that transfers would result in lost information and dropped E-911 calls.

But Winslow said he understands the economic situation and savings must be found.

“Money is a major issue,” he said. “But it won’t be easy.”

The public hearing on dispatch consolidation will be held on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Log Cabin.

Amy Anderson can be reached at781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net