2015-02-13 / Front Page

Despite storm, dispatch rolls forward

Public Safety Center begins to take calls from Old Orchard Beach
By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


Scarborough dispatchers Joe Thornton (left) and Arthur Green field emergency calls in the Scarborough Public Safety building last year. Last week Scarborough officially took over Old Orchard Beach’s public safety dispatch services. Services previously were handled at the Sanford Regional Communication Center. 
(File photo) Scarborough dispatchers Joe Thornton (left) and Arthur Green field emergency calls in the Scarborough Public Safety building last year. Last week Scarborough officially took over Old Orchard Beach’s public safety dispatch services. Services previously were handled at the Sanford Regional Communication Center. (File photo) Mother Nature couldn’t delay the opening of a newly configured Scarborough Public Safety Center early last week. The center, located next to the Oak Hill Fire Station on Route 1, began handling calls for both Scarborough and Old Orchard Beach at 8 a.m. Monday, Feb. 2, amidst a storm that brought another batch of snow to Scarborough and the surrounding communities.

Through an agreement with Old Orchard Beach, Scarborough is now handling all of Old Orchard Beach’s dispatch and emergency calls. The center had to be altered slightly to accommodate additional dispatchers to handle calls from the two communities. Old Orchard Beach covered the cost of the additional dispatchers, the added dispatch work stations, as well as the costs for software and other necessary elements.

Old Orchard Beach and Scarborough have long had a standing mutual aid agreement for fire and other emergency calls. For the last several years Old Orchard Beach’s dispatch and emergency calls had been handled at the Sanford Regional Communications Center.

It has been a busy time of year for the Scarborough Public Safety Center due to the onslaught of winter weather, but Police Chief Robbie Moulton said the transition has gone well.

“We thought this would be a good time to do it because it is typically a quieter time of year, but so far, obviously it’s been a little bit of baptism by fire because there’s been a lot of activity with the snow storms. It has gone well from my perspective,” Moulton said.

“There has been some little bumps along the way, but it’s been a good transition,” Scarborough Fire Chief B. Michael Thurlow said Thursday, Feb. 5. “All in all, technology-wise, it is working well. (Old Orchard Beach seems) really happy with the service we are providing.”

Moulton said several interior walls were removed to make room for the new dispatchers in a space that once housed some of the center’s records. That space, which includes three consoles, is outfitted with screens that monitor the front lobby of the Old Orchard Beach Police Station.

“They fired up at 8 a.m. Monday morning right in the middle of a storm,” said Town Councilor Ed Blaise, who visited the center Tuesday, Feb. 3. “One of the guys was telling me it went just as smooth as could be.”

Town Councilor Bill Donovan was also pleased when he visited the center Feb. 3.

“What it showed to me is that this is the sort of partnership that we need to be always thinking about to have more efficient government. There is never going to be enough money around to do all the things we might like to be seen done,” Donovan said.

As dispatchers get familiar with the reconfigured public safety center and the consolidation with Old Orchard Beach dispatchers, a group of firefighters is weighing bids for a new fire truck. In November, voters approved up to $585,000 for a new fire engine. The engine will replace Engine 3, which has been servicing the Pleasant Hill area of Scarborough since 1990. The new engine, however, will be assigned to Oak Hill, where calls for service are greater. Engine 7, a 9-yearold apparatus at Oak Hill station, will be reassigned to Pleasant Hill to handle calls in that part of Scarborough.

Request for bids were sent out earlier this winter. Thurlow said each of the three bids came back under budget and, on Monday, the fire department’s standing truck committee began to review the bids to make sure all the requirements have been met. The group is expected to award a contract by late February or early March, but it will take months to construct and outfit the vehicle. Thurlow said he expects to receive the truck in late fall or early winter.

The Public Safety Department, Town Manager Tom Hall said, has been fully reimbursed for the cost of providing security and traffic detail on Oct. 24, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to Scarborough High School for a rally for gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud, and on Oct. 30, when President Obama passed through the area on his way to a rally for Michaud at the Portland Expo in Portland.

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