Penobscot County public safety workers urge voters to vote "yes" on $6 million bond issue

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 6:14 PM EDT
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Penobscot County public safety officials want voters to say yes to a $6 million bond question on their referendum ballot next Tuesday.

"Our current communications system is in peril," says Penobscot Regional Communication Center Director Christopher Lavoie.

According to officials, Penobscot Regional Communication Center in Bangor is one of the busiest in the state.

Dispatching for a total of 65 agencies.

"In 2019 our dispatch center handled over 300,000 combined 9-1-1 and non-emergent calls for service as well as over 1.5 million radio transmissions," says Lavoie.

Their current communication system is nearly 25 years old and prone to failure.Lavoie says, "In 2004 an independent consultant did a study of our system and found it to be inadequate for public safety use. 16 years later and nothing has changed."

Officials say the current system, which has been in place since 1997, is dangerous.

"In the past several years, we have dealt with failures in our system that have resulted in little to no communication during emergent situations," says Lavoie.

Chief Scott Bragdon of Corinth Fire Department says, "Somebody is going to get hurt, somebody is going to get killed, and it's because the radio system is down. Everybody in this room can give you a story. All you have to do is ask them. It has happened to every one of us. You key that mic and nobody answers. That's a lonely feeling when you're out there and you need help."

The system is no longer supported by the manufacturer and it's difficult and almost impossible to obtain replacement parts for repairs.

"It's not a matter of 'if' but 'when' will the next failure occur," says Lavoie.

$6 million isn't a small chunk of change but officials say it's necessary to modernize their system.

Officials say they have worked with outside contractors to find the most efficient and cost effective system upgrade.

Lavoie says, "There is a sticker shock to $6 million. It is approximately $3.50 per $100,000 assessed value based on the 2020 evaluation."

When an emergency is at its worst that's when communication needs to be at its best.

Lavoie says this upgrade is really life or death, "If you have someone who is having a medical issue and the system doesn't work to send out that ambulance, that's huge. That's a delayed response to your emergency and that could cost someone's life."

"Any delay on our end can cost a life on your end," says Chief Scott Wilcox of the Old Town Police Department.

A "Yes" vote approves the issuance of up to$6 million in general obligation bonds of the county to finance an upgraded communications system.

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