Council to vote on sticking with county for overnight dispatching

ELLSWORTH — The City Council is set to vote Monday night on continuing to contract with the county’s dispatch center to provide overnight dispatching service within the city.

The agreement that the council will consider at its March 20 meeting calls for the city to pay Hancock County $23,000 for dispatch services between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., seven days a week, through the rest of 2017.

The Hancock County Regional Communications Center began dispatching for Ellsworth’s police and fire departments (as well as the Trenton Fire Department) in July of 2016 as a pilot project.

Prior to that, dispatching for all three agencies had been done around the clock by a dispatcher working at the Ellsworth Police Department.

Police Chief Glenn Moshier said the impetus for the city to make the switch last year was because of staffing issues. The department was having a hard time finding qualified candidates who were willing to work the overnight shift.

“It’s much easier to find someone to work when you don’t have the threat of an overnight shift hanging overhead,” Moshier said. “That was always a struggle for us.”

While some people thrive working overnights, and prefer it to working during the day, Moshier said those individuals are few and far between.

Moshier said the county dispatch office already has two dispatchers working during the overnight shift and that it made sense to partner with them for dispatching service during that time frame. He said the arrangement has worked well since it was implemented last year.

The police chief said the city incurred additional cost as a result of the initial shift to using the county for overnight dispatching because security upgrades were required at City Hall.

Without a dispatcher on duty to monitor the Church Street entrance at City Hall, cameras and new door locks were installed to make sure that the building is secure during the overnight hours. Residents can still access the building during that time, but must be let in by someone on duty in the building.

Now that that equipment has been put in place, Moshier said the city will see some cost savings. Although the $23,000 figure is comparable to what the city would pay in salary for an overnight dispatcher of its own, it will avoid additional costs such as vacation time and health care benefits.

Moshier said the price tag for this new contract is a bit higher compared to that of the pilot project because the county anticipates having to bring on additional staff during particularly busy times.

He believes it makes sense for the city, however. In recent months the Police Department has been able to hire two experienced dispatchers to fill vacant spots, and he believes not having to work an overnight shift made the job more attractive to them (the dispatchers had previously worked at locations where they were required to work overnights).

Because the city was able to hire dispatchers with previous experience, Moshier said, it also will avoid the costs associated with having to train them for the job.

If the council approves this contract, Moshier said he anticipates that it would be brought up for renewal on a yearly basis. It runs through the end of the year because the county’s fiscal year runs on a January to December basis.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller has worked at The Ellsworth American since 2012. He covers the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland. [email protected]