ROCKLAND — The Knox County Regional Communications Center will close due to a lack of staff.

“This is a perfect storm for public safety,” Knox County Commissioner Sharon Pohlman said at a meeting of the Knox County Commissioners and Knox County Budget Committee Thursday night.

When people dial 9-1-1 in Knox County, calls will be directed to the Waldo County Communications Center. Public safety officials from across Knox County attended the Aug. 10 meeting and said this will result in slower response times and less information being provided to public safety staff rushing to fire, accident and crime scenes.

Public safety leaders attended the Thursday evening meeting of Knox County officials. Stephen Betts/The Courier-Gazette

Knox County Administrator Andrew Hart said the department currently has four dispatchers and one dispatch supervisor. The department is budgeted for 10 dispatchers and three supervisors.

Low pay and working conditions that have seen dispatchers working with mandatory overtime and few days off was cited frequently as the reason that dispatchers have left Knox County.

Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley said two other dispatchers are expected to leave soon.


Rockland Fire Chief Christopher Whytock said this has been a problem that has been developing for a long time and fire departments around the county have been warning the county of the pending crisis.

“We’re already up a creek and lost a paddle and now we’re about to lose the other paddle,” Whytock said.

Thomaston Police Chief Tim Hoppe said that it was both about pay and a balance between work and family time. He said the dispatch center has been so short-handed during the past year that one dispatcher earned $172,000 last year because of the extreme amount of overtime worked.

Thomaston Fire Chief Mikial Mazzeo said the county needs to increase the pay significantly and do it across the board for dispatchers to retain and recruit new employees.

Miceli agreed, saying the pay currently is on par with what Walmart and McDonald’s pay their workers. The dispatchers require extensive training and then work in a stressful environment handling emergency calls.

The starting pay for a dispatcher is $18.70 an hour and the top of the scale for someone with at least 18 years of service is $26.19 an hour, Hart said. The administrator said during negotiations with the union last year, the county offered raises but they were turned down by the membership.


Fire officials pointed out, however, that the county offer was rejected because it offered higher increases for new hires but far less for the senior members with experience who would train the new people.

Hart said the remaining dispatchers have voted to decertify the union but plan to seek representation from another union. Because of the rejection, the workers have not seen an increase in 2023, he said.

Peasley said if the county were to offer an 18% increase across the board, it would be approved by the remaining employees.

Hart said he has not heard from the union.

Budget Committee member Jeffrey Northgraves of South Thomaston said an open meeting was not the place to negotiate contracts.

Pohlman said the county needs to take action now.


The commissioners took no votes at the meeting. Commission Chair Ed Glaser said the commissioners would discuss the issue. The next commissioners meeting is scheduled for September.

Knox County Communications Director Robert Coombs said that if the county were able to hire more workers the center could be back up to its prior operations within six months.

Public safety officials pointed out that the closing of the Knox center is going to place a greater volume on Waldo County.

Dispatch is facing the most acute shortage but other Knox County public safety departments also are facing a lack of staff. The sheriff’s patrol has lost five officers recently, and the corrections department is down 11 workers.

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