Selectmen put off dispatch decision

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

The Bridgton Board of Selectmen will make no decision on what to do about dispatching services for the town until their next meeting on Feb. 22.
Pointing out the seriousness of the decision at hand, Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz recommended, at the board’s Jan. 25 meeting, that the matter of whether the town retains its own Dispatch Center or contracts with the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center should be decided by voters at the annual town meeting in June.

“In reviewing this possible change, I am aware that the town may lose what is considered a ‘tailored’ service for a standardized service which would rely upon technology and different people ‘to locate and dispatch’ all calls for services,” Berkowitz stated, in his “Conclusions” remarks of the Comparison of Dispatching Services report he prepared for selectmen. “The contemplation of this change, coupled with the loss of local jobs, makes such a decision a difficult one, though very important.”

Tuesday night, the five selectmen agreed they would come to their meeting on Feb. 22 ready to vote one way or the other — either to let voters decide at town meeting in June or to retain Dispatch here in Bridgton and build on the recommendations contained in a comprehensive report prepared for the town by Public Safety Strategies Group of Massachusetts last year.

Selectman Paul Hoyt said Feb. 8 that he had spoken with the town manager earlier in the day about whether or not a cost of $44,000 for administrative support should be shown on “both sides” of the comparison, rather than just one side — the town’s. Hoyt said that, in his comparison document, Berkowitz showed a cost shift from Dispatch to the Police Department budget of $150,732 when, in his view, it should show that number to be $44,000 higher.

“If it’s on one side, it should be a recommendation on both, so actually we’re saying $88,000 in Year I,” said Selectman Hoyt. “I think it’s not correctly (shown)…If we’re talking about an administrative person, it should be $44,000, either way…in reality, it’s a savings of $88,000 in Year I.”

“It’s not a net $44,000 cost savings,” the town manager pointed out. “There is also a $44,000 cost avoidance, if we go to County.”

So, with the $44,000 for administrative support added to the savings in Years I through III, the savings to the town, presuming all other costs increase at the same rates, would be $84,466 in Year I, $138,572 in Year II and $168,546 in Year III.

Additionally, Berkowitz said the $7,260 loss in revenue from public or private alarm systems brings the total loss in revenue to $17,000, not the lower amount stated in the comparison document.

Selectman Doug Taft asked Berkowitz why the cost for an administrative support person would be coming only from Dispatch to the Police Department budget and not shared by both the Police and Fire Departments.

“The (administrative) function is extremely important, both in law enforcement and in the fire department, and can be shared by both departments,” said Berkowitz. “The paperwork is growing for both.”

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