End of era: Bridgton Dispatch set to close Aug. 22

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

The end of an era in the town of Bridgton is fast approaching, as the local dispatch center gets ready to turn over its duties to the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center in Windham.

BRIDGTON DISPATCHERS — who have faithfully served the community, will soon be out of a job. Annual town meeting voters approved having emergency dispatch services provided by the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center in Windham. The change will become effective on Aug. 22. From left, are dispatchers Dave Sanborn, Michelle Bragdon, Myrna Komich-White, Bette-Jean Espeaignette and Supervisor Dan Managan. Laurie Horne was absent, when this photo was taken. (Ackley Photo)

Originally targeted for Aug. 15, the change to the CCRCC has been pushed back a week, and will now take place Aug. 22, Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz announced Monday afternoon.

Voters approved contracting with the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center, in a referendum vote at the June annual town meeting, by a margin of just 20 votes — with 342 in favor and 322 opposed.

The Bridgton Board of Selectmen supported the changeover to the CCRCC, saying taxpayers would save $259,000 the first three years, with projected annual savings of about $125,000, after Year 3. The selectmen also said the move to the CCRCC would save the town in capital equipment upgrades and replacements, in the coming years.

Currently, Bridgton Dispatch has three full-time dispatchers — Dan Managan, Dave Sanborn and Michelle Bragdon — and three part-time dispatchers, Bette-Jean Espeaignette, Myrna Komich- White and Laurie Hakala Horne.

Bridgton Dispatch Supervisor Dan Managan was one of the original dispatchers hired by the town, back in 1986 — he would have marked his 25-year anniversary date with Dispatch, next month.

Managan, who has been Bridgton Dispatch’s supervisor for six years, said he has applied to become a dispatcher at the CCRCC.

He fully remembers when he and the other dispatchers at the time worked out of the basement of the former Bridgton Police Department building on Main Street where Oberg Insurance and Real Estate is located today.

“I was one of the first ones hired here — back then, we had four full-time and one part-time dispatcher — John Anderson, Pat Zulick, Laurie Hakala Horne, Joyce Hodsdon and me,” Managan said. “We were in the cellar where Oberg’s is now, with the low overhead pipes that you had to duck around. It was cold in the wintertime, and water ran across the floor whenever Stevens Brook flooded. There were jail cells there, too. The teletype system was a great big thing. We didn’t have computers — just typewriters, and the same (dispatch) radio we have now (a Zetron).”

“Back before we had (Bridgton) Dispatch, I dispatched at the Bridgton Fire Station for a few years — that’s when Phil Tarr was town manager, (the late) Steve Barker was fire chief and Ron Smith was assistant fire chief and we had the red phones,” Managan said. “Over the years, we dispatched for the Bridgton Police Department, the Bridgton Fire Department, Sweden Fire Department, Kimball Ambulance (then later on, United Ambulance which today has its own dispatch center), Bridgton Public Works and on weekends for the Bridgton Water District.”

Bridgton Police and Dispatch moved in to the downstairs of the new municipal complex, in the late 1980s.

“At first, we had rotating shifts — now we work 12-hour shifts. We changed to computers, too — the first computers we had had five and a quarter-inch floppy disks,” stated Managan. “All that stuff has changed. Today, we have better equipment. There is also better training mandated by the state. I’ve kept up on the computer technology changes, over the years.”

Managan said he was hired by the late chief of police Robert Bell and also worked for former police chief David Lyons, as well as Kevin Schofield, the current chief of police and fire chiefs Steve Barker, Ron Smith and Glen Garland.

“I’ve also seen many other law enforcement agencies use our building as a command post more than a couple of times — including the Maine State Police, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, Oxford County Sheriff’s Office and the Maine Warden Service,” said Managan.

Told someone else had likened the dispatchers’ group to a family unit, Managan stated, “It’s been a good crew here.”

Part-time dispatchers Myrna Komich-White and Bette-Jean Espeaignette said they are unsure what they will do for work, once Bridgton Dispatch is disbanded.

Espeaignette has been a dispatcher here for 10 years, and previously also dispatched for Naples and Sebago.

Komich-White has been employed in the emergency dispatching field for 19 years, and was a full-time dispatcher in Windham until she was laid off due to that town switching over to the CCRCC.

“I worked full-time here for five years, and then I went to Windham,” Komich-White said. “I came from Massachusetts where I was a dispatcher for a private ambulance service.” She said she is currently seeking employment in other places.

“There is not much out there,” for available jobs, she said.

Longtime dispatcher Dave Sanborn said he, too, has applied to the CCRCC to become a full-time dispatcher there.

Sanborn, who has worked at Bridgton Dispatch for 20 years, still puts in one day a week as a part-time dispatcher at the Oxford County Regional Communications Center in Paris. He also serves as a reserve police officer for the Bridgton Police Department.

“You meet a lot of interesting people,” as a dispatcher, said Sanborn. “You see people at their best times, and you see people at their worst times. You get to know a lot of the faces that come to the window and call you on the phone. I’m going to miss that connection. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of good people. I’ve seen a lot of people come and gone.”

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