Police & Fire

Committee looking at Piscataquis County emergency radio system

DOVER-FOXCROFT — Since 2020 Piscataquis County and municipal emergency officials have been working to update outdated infrastructure and long-running problems with the county’s radio communications for emergency personnel. The endeavor is now being overseen by a committee of police and fire chiefs.

“We have picked a planning committee for the radio project,” Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency Interim Director Debra Hamlin told the Piscataquis County Commissioners during a meeting on Tuesday morning, July 2. She said the group includes Piscataquis County Sheriff Bob Young, Brownville Fire Department Chief Shawn Mitchell, Dover-Foxcroft Fire Department Chief Brian Gaudet, Dover-Foxcroft Police Chief Seth Burnes, and Greenville Police Department Chief Jim Carr.

“We’ll start having regular meetings and will send out updates and statuses, there is no timeline on that,” Hamlin said.

She said Normand Boucher of Communications Design Consulting Group of Barrington, New Hampshire was scheduled to speak with the commissioners over Zoom that morning but the presentation will be rescheduled for a later meeting.

Last year $4.2 million for the radio project was part of a U.S. Senate Appropriations bill championed by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the panel. The award was the largest of seven projects included in the part of the legislation that would give $7.6 million to police and other public safety agencies in Maine.

County commissioners paid Communications Design Consulting Group $27,000 for a feasibility study on radio communications, which was presented in November 2021

Before the feasibility study, Boucher spent months meeting with members of area fire and police departments and toured sites around the region, including locations of about a dozen transmitters throughout Piscataquis County. Many of the problems stem from the hilly and mountainous terrain of the region and/or aging and out of date infrastructure.

The late 2021 presentation also said the then existing dispatch set-up was inadequate for proper layout of the dispatch console equipment.

In other business, the construction process to move the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center from cramped conditions in the county jail in Dover-Foxcroft into the administrative unit of the sheriff’s office on the first floor of the same larger building is currently proceeding. In the spring County Manager Michael Williams said the project is on pace to be completed ahead of schedule, even after asbestos was found.

He said the renovations should be done the third or fourth week of July and the dispatch consoles should be moved in the second week of August — well ahead of the Sept. 9 project deadline.

In early March Old Town-based project architect Vicki Leavitt told county officials all the contracts and permits were in place to begin a 6-month timeline through Sept. 9. In late November the county commissioners voted to proceed with a $668,944 project bid from Ganneston Construction, the lowest of three received.

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. She recommended refurbishing the first floor of the sheriff’s office to meet the needs of administrative employees and dispatchers. Leavitt also said the former dispatch space will be used by jail staff with the locking doors remaining in place.

The dispatch center is too small for current and future operations, and office space is shared with corrections staff, according to the presentation made by Communications Design Consulting Group.

The dispatch center, when it was set to move to Guilford, was estimated to have 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.

Staff Writer Valerie Royzman contributed to this story.

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