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 some or all of the 16 Kennebec County municipalities that are being cut loose at the end of June by the Somerset County public safety answering point. It’s a solution that also appears to require legislative approval. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

AUGUSTA — With a proposal forming to handle emergency calls across northern and western Kennebec County, the county’s emergency management director hopes work can continue on a permanent fix.

Earlier this week, Waterville officials said they are investigating the expansion of its regional communications center to include a public safety answering point.

If the communications center is successful, it could take on some or all of the 16 Kennebec County municipalities that are being cut loose at the end of June by the Somerset County PSAP.

But the move requires legislative intervention.

Bob Gasper, of the state’s 911 bureau, said at this week’s Kennebec County Commissioners’ meeting that making Waterville’s communications center a PSAP requires approval by state lawmakers to spend the money to put the required equipment in place.

“There’s a bill yet to be numbered to do that,” Gasper said. “I’m guessing that if the Legislature is seeing a problem solved, they’ll probably go with it.”


The state’s Public Utilities Commission, which includes the Maine Emergency Services Communication Bureau or 911, has received permission for emergency legislation to allow it to add a PSAP to ensure 911 is available to all state residents, Susan Faloon, spokesperson for the Public Utilities Commission, said Thursday. The bill is currently in the Revisor’s Office and has not yet been assigned a bill number.

“The funding for the added costs to add Waterville as a PSAP can be absorbed using existing monies in the E911 surcharge fund set aside for contingencies such as this,” Faloon said.

The monthly cost for equipment and maintenance charges is estimated at $2,000, she said, with some additional charges for installation.

In his presentation to the commissioners, Gasper said the Androscoggin PSAP can take on 911 calls from all the towns in the Winthrop area whose public safety services are being dispatched from the Winthrop Police Department.

“(Androscoggin) is one of three of the 24 PSAPs in the state at 100% staffing,” he said.

Whenever someone calls 911, the call is routed to a public safety answering point, which then sends the call to the appropriate dispatch center, where dispatchers contact the appropriate agency — police, fire or ambulance — to send help.


In January, Somerset County commissioners voted to end contracts with 16 Kennebec County communities, citing staffing issues. Michael Smith, director of the Somerset County Emergency Management Agency as well as its communications center and PSAP, said more than half the 911 calls that Somerset County handled in 2022 were from Kennebec County.

Art True, Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency director, said he’s still looking for a long-term solution.

With the immediate problem apparently resolved by Waterville’s proposal and the Androscoggin PSAP taking 911 calls in the Winthrop area, True said he’s focused on looking at not ending up in a similar situation again.

“What does this mean as far (as) the future? I would say look at the past,” True said at the commissioners’ meeting, noting that problems have cropped up in 2007, 2010, 2011, 2018 and last month.

“To me, it’s our job to make sure we’re serving our people the best we can and listen to them,” he said. “What does that look like? It’s up to them.”

At one time, Kennebec County had five PSAPs, including at Waterville, Augusta and Gardiner, but over time, they closed, leaving the state’s Central Maine Regional Communications Center in operation as part of an ongoing policy to streamline the service.


“My concern is that if we can’t fix this at the local level and the state gets involved, they’ll push something down us,” Scott Ferguson, Kennebec County administrator said. “We may not be happy with that, either.”

Gasper said four Kennebec County towns — Farmingdale, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner — have been served by Lincoln County’s PSAP for eight or nine years and the arrangement has been satisfactory.

“Lincoln (PSAP) is down a few people. Who knows when the next Somerset-like letter will come from Lincoln?” he said.

True urged county commissioners not to put the issue on the back burner.

“We could be back here again,” he said.

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