Sen. LaFountain introduces bill to strengthen Kennebec County emergency communications
AUGUSTA – On Tuesday, Sen. Dave LaFountain, D-Winslow, introduced a bill to ensure emergency response services are readily accessible and can effectively respond for residents of Kennebec County. LD 1828, “An Act Regarding Enhanced 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Points,” was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.
“For many years, prior to 2007, the Waterville Police Department Dispatch Center was a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Receiving 9-1-1 calls directly at the city dispatch center allowed trained dispatchers, familiar with the community, to dispatch the correct service quickly and efficiently to the emergency,” said Sen. LaFountain. “Bringing these critical services home to Waterville is essential in order to continue providing quality public safety throughout Kennebec County.”
LD 1828 is a solution to the emergency situation that was created by the short notice decision of Somerset County Communications Center to stop serving certain towns in Kennebec County. Without action, these towns will be without a PSAP come July 1. This emergency bill restores the Waterville Communications Center to serve the affected communities.
Multiple stakeholders testified in support of the bill, including Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop; Rep. Tavis Hasenfus, D-Readfield; Interim Waterville Police Chief William Bonney, and Acting E-9-1-1 Council Chairman Kevin Chabot.
“When people call 9-1-1, the people of Kennebec County deserve to have their calls answered,” said Sen. Hickman. “We need a solution, and through this bill, I am hopeful that we will arrive at a permanent fix to assure residents that when they need help, help will arrive in a timely manner.”
“If the Legislature doesn’t do something, there may not be anybody to answer our emergency calls,” said Rep. Hasenfus. “These communities are currently served by the Somerset County Regional Communications Center, but the PSAP contracts will not be renewed. The Legislature must act swiftly in order to ensure continued E-9-1-1 services, as this is absolutely essential.”
“These communities account for a little over 14,000 9-1-1 calls per year. As of July 1, 2023, no PSAP will be available to cover the 14,000 calls and meet the quality assurance standards in place for PSAPs in Maine,” said Chief Bonney. “Under LD 1828, the Emergency Services Communications Bureau would be allowed to establish another PSAP on the determination that it was necessary to ensure public safety services and access to E-9-1-1 services. I cannot think of a time when it is more necessary than it is at this moment.”
“We urge the Committee to recognize the legislation as immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, and urge them to pass the emergency legislation,” said Chairman Chabot. “This action is necessary to ensure access to emergency services for several towns within Kennebec County that may be without PSAP services as of July 1, 2023.”
LD 1828 faces further action in committee.