Selectman to check police and dispatching services

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

Bridgton selectmen want to have as much information in front of them as they possibly can, before they discuss and decide on options the town has for police dispatching and law enforcement services.

So, Tuesday night they instructed Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz to schedule the head of Cumberland County’s Regional Communications Center to come to their Oct. 26 selectmen’s meeting to explain what it can provide for dispatching and the associated costs.

They also will ask a representative from the Sheriff’s Office to come and talk to them about what law enforcement services Bridgton could expect, should the local police department be dissolved in the future.

Additionally, the board members said they want Chief of Police David Lyons and Lieutenant Peter Madura to provide them with information as to how they could upgrade equipment and implement suggestions made in the recently completed comprehensive study of the Bridgton Police Department and its dispatching counterpart by Public Safety Strategies Group of Massachusetts.

The report said the town could save as much as $140,000 per year by outsourcing the dispatching duties and have better efficiency, as well.

“These are the last two things we have to do — talking to Cumberland County Dispatch and the Sheriff’s Office,” Selectman Earl Cash told his fellow board members Oct. 5. “Once those two things are addressed, that completes the evaluation, and then it’s a matter of how you want to proceed.”

Berkowitz asked the board for “clarification” as to why he would be asking the Sheriff’s Office officials to attend a future selectmen’s meeting, in addition to the CCRCC Supervisor Captain Bill Holmes coming to discuss dispatching options.

“They are two separate entities,” said Cash.

“So, I’ll call them and ask them to talk about law enforcement services,” Berkowitz stated.

“Yes, law enforcement services,” Chairman Art Triglione said.

Selectman Woody Woodward said the PSSG report recommended that the town look for other dispatching options, “But, they said it wouldn’t make sense to go to an outside agency for law enforcement.”

Selectman Cash said he would also like to see information from the Bridgton Police Department about comparable costs for both dispatch and police coverage.

“That ties up all the loose ends,” Cash reiterated. “It would show what the cost is to do it yourself, or what the cost is if they (Cumberland County) do it.”

So, Cumberland County officials will be asked to attend the board’s Oct. 26 meeting to present dispatching option to the town, and the Sheriff’s Office will be asked to attend a selectmen’s meeting sometime in November to discuss law enforcement options. Selectman Woodward questioned whether it would be better to hear a presentation from the Sheriff’s Office regarding how it could handle local law enforcement, before hearing from Captain Holmes about possible dispatching options.

“If, for some reason, we dissolved our police department and went with (Cumberland) County, the dispatch matter is moot,” Woodward stated.

“We don’t know if (Bridgton) Dispatch is staying or going,” Chairman Triglione said.

“Believe me, if the Sheriff’s Office takes over law enforcement (for Bridgton), they will not use our Dispatch (center),” Woodward said.

“That well may be,” Cash replied. “But, we need as much information as we can get. We haven’t said one way or the other — our Department versus the Sheriff’s Office.”

“We have to give the Sheriff’s Office data to make the presentation they need to make (to the board of selectmen),” Triglione said.

“The other thing I might suggest,” Selectman Woodward said, “is to ask the (Bridgton) Police Department and Dispatch what they think they could do to come up to a (level of performance recommended in the PSSG report). Now that they know what the issues are, and give them a chance to come up with a plan as to how to run things.”

“Two things we need to look at, when we’re talking Dispatch,” said Selectman Cash. “The $140,000 savings to the town, which did not include savings (of not having to update Bridgton Dispatch’s) equipment. If you put the two together, there’s a substantial savings.”

Berkowitz pointed out that the town would still need to pay the costs of some equipment upgrades, in order to interface with Public Safety Answering Points, or PSAPS.

Selectman Woodward also suggested the selectmen talk to Bridgton Public Safety Dispatch about specific recommendations made in the PSSG report, and ask them about each specific recommendation, “Can you meet this need, or is it beyond your ability?”

“I think it goes with the Police Department, also,” stated Triglione.

“We’ve been this route before, and we were told some things were implemented when they weren’t,” Cash said. “So, we’d better have a score card.”

“If the Chief of Police and the town manager have looked at this (PSSG) report, and we know they have, then I would say they are looking into (the suggested recommendations) now, as Woody put it, maybe some of it is ongoing. If it is, we don’t know that,” Cash said. “We’re not telling them how to go about it — we’re telling them to tell us what they’re doing.”

“I think what we’d (the town manager and police chief) like to do is take each of the recommendations on the (PSSG) report, and say, ‘Here’s where we are with them,’” said Berkowitz.

“Okay, then we’re all set,” Chairman Triglione said.

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