Cape Elizabeth is looking closely at moving their police dispatchers out of town and into South Portland.

At Monday night’s Town Council meeting, the council granted Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Neil Williams permission to form a group to analyze whether the savings of moving the dispatchers to South Portland is significant enough to justify losing what many feel is a personalized service.

Williams said the group, established to determine costs as well as location of a consolidated dispatch, would include the South Portland and Cape Elizabeth police and fire chiefs and two dispatchers from each community.

Williams referred to combining Cape and South Portland 911 calls as a “baby step” towards consolidating dispatch.

The council also unanimously approved sending the approximately 1,600 911 calls generated by Cape annually over to South Portland at a cost of $1 for every Cape resident.

Williams said the Public Utilities Commission, the body responsible for managing the reorganization of the call centers, is expecting to receive a letter of intent from Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough and South Portland by July 1, explaining their plan for consolidating 911 calls.

Under a state mandate, municipalities are joining forces with their neighbors to reduce the number of 911 call centers or public safety answer points, also known as PSAPS, from 48 to somewhere between 16 and 24. Unless Cape Elizabeth submitted a plan for their call center, the state would choose where to locate the town’s calls.

Williams said there is money in the budget to cover the approximately $9,100 Cape will pay South Portland to answer the town’s 911 calls.

Councilor Mike Mowles, said that though he would favor forming a working group, he doesn’t necessarily favor consolidating dispatch. “It may be a cost worth paying for the level of service we have,” he said.

Originally, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough and South Portland were considering uniting their 911 calls under one roof, either in Scarborough or South Portland and then possibly considering a full merger of dispatch from there.

Williams said Scarborough threw a “curveball” when they offered to take on Old Orchard Beach’s calls and broke away from the previously discussed three-way alliance. Prior to that, Scarborough and South Portland both wanted to host the consolidated 911 and/or dispatch.

The letter sent into the Public Utilities Commission will include Scarborough’s deal with Old Orchard Beach as separate from Cape Elizabeth’s deal with South Portland. Williams said there is still a chance that a combined dispatch could include Scarborough.

Cape Nordic gets trail approval

A group looking to build cross-country ski trails at Gull Crest Field gained council approval to begin the first stages of trail development.

The group, Cape Nordic, got permission to begin with the first phase of a planned two-phase project. Phase one of the trail covers 2.4 kilometers with the second phase covering 4.2 kilometers. Both phases of the project are projected to cost $39,000, and the group already has more than $10,000 in pledges.

The council gave Cape Nordic approval to have the proposed trail evaluated for wetlands identification and also to develop a plan for storm water and erosion control.

The council approved the trail development under two conditions, that the group provide evidence of adequate money to complete the project and that once completed, the trails will be available to the entire community, with the exception of four or five days a year when it is used solely for Nordic ski races.

Cape Nordic will be responsible for any fees associated with building the trail including assessment and permitting costs.

Turf approved

Despite some council concerns about the cost of replacement, the council approved a residents’ proposal to install artificial turf on the field behind the high school.

They also agreed to set up a committee made up of two councilors, two school board members and five residents to work out the details.

Councilor Anne Swift-Kayatta said she wanted to ensure that the town wouldn’t shoulder any of the cost of replacing the turf in 15 years.

She estimated that with the current plan, would have Kids Turf, the group raising money for the artificial turf, set aside $50,000 for replacement money. Even with that money, she estimated the town and schools would still have to chip in somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000 each.

“I’m just not sure where that money would come from…adding onto the expenses is never popular with the taxpayers,” she said. This year’s combined town and school budget totals $28.4 million.

She suggested the council mandate the group establish a larger endowment for the eventual replacement of the field. If $150,000 were set aside, the projected $300,000 replacement cost would be earned through interest in 15 years, when the surface will need replacing.

For the town and schools to not pay anything towards replacement cost, Swift-Kayatta estimated it would take 37 years for the $50,000 to grow to the $300,000 needed for replacement.

Superintendent Alan Hawkins said he would not expect the group to set aside that much money for replacement costs. “Our biggest concern is, number one, to get the field,” said Hawkins, “I wouldn’t expect them to raise $175,000.”

Councilor Carol Fritz suggested implementing field fees for game admission and rental. “I really don’t think our school and town budgets will find that money,” she said.

Fort Williams fees to be discussed

On August 14, the council will listen to members of the public speak about whether or not they want the town to start charging visitors to Fort Williams park.

A group charged with mapping out a plan for charging fees at the Fort presented their recommendations to the council. The council will discuss the recommendations with the group at a workshop in Town Hall on June 22 at 7:30 p.m.

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