Renovations underway for dispatch center move

DOVER-FOXCROFT — The construction process to move the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center from cramped conditions in the Piscatquis County Jail in Dover-Foxcroft into the administrative unit of the sheriff’s office on the first floor of the same larger building has begun. The county commissioners learned more from Old Town-based project architect Vicki Leavitt during a meeting on Tuesday morning.

Leavitt said all the contracts and permits are in place. “We got everything organized so we could start March 4, which was yesterday,” she said, with the dumpster being dropped off the day prior.

Leavitt said the project has a 6-month timeline. “It’s anticipated to end around Sept. 9,” she said.

“The dispatch consoles have been put on order, they don’t require payment until they are installed,” Leavitt said. When asked, she said a decision on the current models is to be determined. Leavitt said the former dispatch space will be used by jail staff with the locking doors remaining in place.

Head of Maintenance Josh York said the department has been busy getting items out of the administrative unit prior to demolition. He said ceiling tiles and light bulbs were removed as these can be used elsewhere in the county facilities to save some money.

In late November the county commissioners voted to proceed with a $668,944 project bid from Ganneston Construction. The other submissions were $763,750 from Sheridan Construction and a $876,215 proposal from Dunbar & Brawn Construction.

Twice last year the commissioners put the project out to bid. The decision was made to attract more affordable contractors and in December 2022 the commissioners opted to try again in the fall of 2023 to see if material prices would come down.

County officials had planned to move the dispatch center from the control room at the correctional facility in Dover-Foxcroft into the patrol and investigation divisions building in downtown Guilford. Financially and logistically, the sheriff’s office was determined to be a better home for dispatch.

Leavitt looked at three options for the dispatch center’s new location, including the basement of the Peaks House, which houses county offices and commissioners chambers; the basement of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension building; and the first floor of the sheriff’s office.

Leavitt recommended refurbishing the first floor of the sheriff’s office to meet the needs of administrative employees and dispatchers.

The dispatch center is too small for current and future operations, and office space is shared with corrections staff, according to a presentation from Communications Design Consulting Group of Barrington, New Hampshire. County commissioners paid the engineering consultant $27,000 for a feasibility study on radio communications. 

The current dispatch set-up is inadequate for proper layout of the dispatch console equipment, the presentation from November 2021 said.

The dispatch center, when it was set to move to Guilford, was estimated to cost $500,000, plus another $57,000 fee for an architect.

By moving the dispatch center to a space in the sheriff’s office, where cable is already in place, a tower would not need to be built. The new tower was estimated to cost more than $100,000.

In other business, Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency Director Jaeme Duggan gave an update on the in-depth planning process for the April 8 eclipse.

Around 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday, April 8 the moon will be fully in front of the sun for a total solar eclipse, after leading up to the event starting at around 2 o’clock that day. Among the best viewing spaces in the country will be Piscataquis County and other parts of Maine to the north with thousands of visitors projected to be coming to the region for the event.

Duggan said an incident command center will be located in Greenville to help coordinate everything. “We’re concerned because it could be 4,000, it could be 40,000,” she said about the number of visitors coming to the region to view the eclipse.

Mentioning having attended a planning meeting in Augusta, Duggan said she plugged in the best route from the capital to Greenville. The directions that popped up recommended taking Route 201 north from Fairfield, then Route 16 from Bingham east through Kingsbury Plantation and into Abbot to then head north along Route 6/15. 

Duggan said travelers, especially those looking to head to Greenville, could likely be following similar directions.

“We are planning some road closures with DOT,” she said. 

Mentioning the Guilford Center Road and Pine Street/Doughty Hill Road in Dover-Foxcroft and Sangerville, Duggan said these roads would be open only to local traffic, “Just to have a way to get emergency vehicles through.”

While the potential for snow and/or constant clouds blocking the sun could potentially partially reduce the number of eclipse visitors, Duggan said many travelers have booked multiple night stays at various lodging establishments.

“People are going to come anyway, they are spending all that money,” she said.

The emergency operations center will open on Friday evening, April 5, with the influx of visitors starting then, and remaining open into Tuesday, April 9.

The commissioners were told that court arraignments are scheduled for Monday, April 8. Adjustments to parking on the county campus may need to be made.

Staff Writer Valerie Royzman contributed to this story.

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