Yarmouth officials say the transition of public safety dispatching to Falmouth should be “seamless” and residents should expect no change when they make emergency calls.

The Yarmouth Town Council voted 6-0 Monday night in favor of consolidating dispatch services with nearby Falmouth. At least five dispatchers will lose their jobs.

This is the second time in two years that Yarmouth has tried to consolidate dispatch services. In 2008, a plan to have dispatching done by Cumberland County was overturned by voters.

“We feel this (consolidation with Falmouth) will be very similar to what we are doing today,” said Fire Chief Byron Fairbanks.

The change will save Yarmouth $185,000 a year, said Town Manager Nat Tupper. It will take effect later this year.

Keeping the present dispatch system, including wages and benefits, communications equipment and other expenses, would cost $400,000 in the next year, he said. Contracting with Falmouth will cost about $137,000 a year, with additional expenses to maintain some equipment in Yarmouth.

Like many towns, Yarmouth expects reductions in state aid and local revenue in the next fiscal year, and is making cuts to keep its budget balanced.

Yarmouth’s current municipal budget is $10.7 million. Tupper said the town hopes to reduce the 2010-11 budget to $10.4 million to minimize any property tax increase.

“This always comes up when we’re doing the budget,” said Town Council Chairman Mark Hough. “We have to look at all aspects and all departments.”

Hough said moving the service to Falmouth will be cost-effective and give residents a level of comfort because dispatchers will still be nearby.

Under Falmouth’s proposal, he said, two new dispatchers will be hired and Yarmouth’s laid-off dispatchers will be considered for those positions.

When the council voted to move public safety dispatching to Cumberland County in 2008, residents overturned the plan in a referendum and approved funding to maintain the dispatch service.

Sgt. Dan Gallant, vice president of the Yarmouth Police Association, said the union supports the move to Falmouth but is unhappy to lose the dispatchers, who have as much as 30 years’ experience.

“It’s unfortunate that we have quality people here who are going to be losing their jobs in tough economic times,” he said. “The bottom line is, it’s an economic decision.”

Gallant said the union and the town are working on a severance package for the dispatchers.

 

Staff Writer Justin Ellis can be contacted at 791-6380 or at: jellis@pressherald.com