Waterville Interim Police Chief William Bonney confers with dispatcher Sarah Batteese on Monday in the Waterville Regional Communications Center at the Waterville Police Department. The dispatch center based at the department at 10 Colby St. might expand its coverage area for taking 911 calls from other communities. . Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — The city is exploring the idea of having the Waterville Regional Communications Center expand its coverage area in the wake of plans by Somerset County to stop taking 911 calls for 16 communities in Kennebec County after June.

The City Council on Tuesday plans to discuss the matter of the Police Department becoming what’s known as a public safety answering point, or PSAP, as it used to be before the state changed the configuration many years ago. The Somerset County Communications Center PSAP currently handles 911 calls for all of Somerset, as well as the 16 Kennebec County communities Somerset plans to drop — including Waterville.

Somerset announced earlier it was dropping coverage for the Kennebec municipalities due to staffing problems.

When a person dials 911, the call is routed to the Somerset PSAP. Somerset sends the call to the appropriate dispatch center which then contacts the relevant agency — police, fire, ambulance — to respond.

Waterville acting police Chief Bill Bonney provided a four-page document to city officials about the history of the PSAP issue and why the Police Department becoming a PSAP again would be beneficial to the city and area communities.

“We need to work together with our partners to provide the best solution possible,” Bonney said Monday.


The Waterville dispatch center was a PSAP for many years, until 2007, and received 911 calls from Waterville, Oakland, Winslow and Delta Ambulance, according to Bonney. Receiving the 911 calls directly allowed dispatchers familiar with the community to dispatch the correct service quickly and efficiently to an emergency, he said.

A state law was enacted in 2003 that led authorities to reduce the number of PSAPs from 48 to between 16 and 24. Waterville and the communities it dispatched for fought the recommendation that Kennebec County have only one PSAP, according to Bonney. On Oct. 10, 2007, the state Public Utilities Commission ordered all 911 calls made in Waterville, Winslow and Oakland be routed to the Central Maine Regional Communications Center in Augusta, the only authorized PSAP in Kennebec County. Waterville, however, chose to go with Somerset’s PSAP.

Bonney says in the document to city officials that Waterville has been a staple in regional emergency communications for 50 years and is expected to lead in the area.

Dispatchers Sarah Batteese, right, and Addie Gilman work Monday in the Waterville Regional Communications Center at the Waterville Police Department. The dispatch center based at the department at 10 Colby St. might expand its coverage area for taking 911 calls from other communities. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“As such, we are uniquely placed to provide a critical service to northern Kennebec County by pursuing the option of reopening our PSAP,” he wrote. “Further, the communities can share the cost — fairly — of adding an additional PSAP to Kennebec County.”

The benefits of being a PSAP again include that it would reduce fragmentation of the city’s 911 calls created by the original consolidation, according to Bonney. For instance, when Waterville was a PSAP, a call was handled by one person who took a caller’s name, address, telephone number and nature of the emergency. With the change in the PSAP system, the caller was transferred to another center which collected the same information, and help wasn’t dispatched until the process was completed.

Waterville is the only dispatch center in Kennebec County to retain emergency medical dispatch and emergency fire dispatch functions, which are a staple of PSAP services, according to Bonney.


“While we do have to be fiscally responsible to our citizens and develop a fair rate structure, we would potentially receive a significant source of revenue as our current customers would likely find us an affordable, quality option for PSAP services,” Bonney said in is document for city councilors. “This would then share among our customer communities the cost of having quality E911 services.”

The city would realize a savings because the state Emergency Services Communication Bureau provides PSAPs with equipment, software and 911 dispatcher training which Waterville pays for now, he said. He added that there would be a cost, as Waterville would have to add equipment and staffing at its center. Options are being explored to help reduce that cost, he said.

Dispatcher Sarah Batteese assists a caller Monday in the dispatch center at the Waterville Police Department in Waterville. The Waterville Regional Communications Center based at the department at 10 Colby St. might expand its coverage area for taking 911 calls from other communities. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

More than 50% of the 42,463 911 calls Somerset County handled in 2022 were from Kennebec County and 7,515 were from Waterville alone, according to information provided by Somerset.

Acting City Manager Bill Post said Monday the council would have to approve any decision to create a PSAP at the Waterville center.

“At this time, it is unknown when that vote would occur, as we need to work together with our partners to find the best solution possible before proposing anything to the council,” Post said in an email. “The discussion item on the council’s meeting agenda … is to bring the council up to speed on the topic and provide information to staff as to what the council sees as next steps.”

Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho said Monday the state also would have to approve it.


“If our representatives are paying attention, we need you to start moving this through,” Coelho said.

It makes sense for Waterville to become a PSAP if it is affordable and Waterville isn’t footing the bill itself, he said. As Bonney maintains, the Police Department would have to hire more dispatchers and have more equipment, according to Coelho.

“If we can make money at it, we should do it,” he said.

In another matter Tuesday, the council is scheduled to take a final voted needed to enact a housing rental registration ordinance that is intended to expedite the city’s housing inspection process. Council Chairwoman Rebecca Greene said Monday the proposed ordinance has been amended to ask property owners for voluntary, not mandatory, registration with the city. She said city officials met with representatives of the Central Maine Apartment Owners Association who were agreeable to the change.

The council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at The Elm at 21 College Ave., and those wanting to listen or take part remotely may do so via links on the city’s website, www.waterville-me.gov.

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