2017-06-22 / Front Page

Cities discuss joining dispatch centers, dredge Help historical society and bid on auction items

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer
By Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo
South Portland Historical Society

SACO – The Joint Biddeford and Saco Council Steering Committee met to discuss the dredging project of the Saco River and the possible creation of a shared police and fire dispatch center between the two towns. The committee hopes to have a final proposal for the river dredging in place by Monday, June 26 and a vendor chosen by Friday, Aug. 18.

The committee heard from an outside consultant Monday, June 19 about the timeframe of the Saco River dredging, associated costs and the major challenges expected (See page 2 for a story). According to the outside consultant hired by the city of Biddeford, a major obstacle facing the dredging project is several copper power transmission cables lying on the bottom of the river. The cables were cut and dropped in the late 1960s. There are four to six cables tangled together that broke the vessel, The Currituck, during a prior dredge. The Currituck is a U.S. Army Corps seagoing vessel designed to transport material and deposit it on beaches in need of sand.

Biddeford City Manager Jim Bennett said the cost of the dredging project, which has yet to be determined, will be split between the two communities.

The committee will plan to give mooring owners along the Saco River 90 days to remove their moorings starting Friday, June 30. The committee still has to decide what the cost of removing and reinstalling the moorings will be. The Currituck won’t begin dredging the river before Wednesday, Nov. 8 per an environmental assessment.

In other news, the joint steering committee requested Bennett and Saco City Administrator Kevin Sutherland draft a proposal for a shared dispatch center to be discussed at the committee’s next meeting in July.

Bennett said technology and staffing decisions are relatively straightforward, the biggest challenge being who will pay and make the decisions. Bennett said Lewiston and Auburn share a dispatch center but difficulties arose because Lewiston has a higher call volume than Auburn. Bennett said he worked for Westbrook when it consolidated from two centers to one. Employees were represented by different unions but details were worked out eventually.

Bennett said the governing body of the dispatch center in Lewiston and Auburn was comprised of two city staff members and one elected official. He said the cities of Biddeford and Saco will have to decide who they want to staff that group.

“It makes sense to decide up front who’s going to make those decisions,” Bennett said. “The rest will be fairly easy. Do we bring this before the councils?”

Saco Ward 1 Councilor David Precourt said the joint steering committee should discuss the plan before bringing it before council. Precourt said he had questions such as if there was a building that could house all of the employees for Saco and Biddeford and whether or not a new union would be formed for the single dispatch center.

Saco Police Chief Raynald Demers said the plan now is to absorb all current dispatch employees into the new center. The rates of pay for the dispatch center would be made even depending on seniority of the employee.

Biddeford Ward 1 Councilor Michael Swanton said he wondered where savings would occur if all of the same employees were kept.

Bennett said as the shared dispatch center grows in size it will be able to provide a more comprehensive service to a larger area and reduce redundancy. He said there is the possibility to save a couple hundred thousand dollars.

“These two centers probably have more than enough coverage for everything now,” Bennett said. “If they were together, there would be a power shift, as well as some savings.”

Biddeford Ward 7 Councilor Michael Ready said the committee will have a lot of work to do before a decision is made or the proposal is brought before city council.

“There is a lot of stuff we need to see before we are fully on board,” Ready said.

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com.

The Summer in Maine Auction, the auction that features some of the best that Maine has to offer, is now open at the South Portland Historical Society’s museum at Bug Light Park. Bids will be accepted every day until the auction closes on the Fourth of July at the Independence Day Classic Car Show at the museum.

We hope you’ll come down and check out the great auction items that have been donated. The Summer in Maine Auction has become a signature fundraiser for the South Portland Historical Society. All items up for bid have been donated by the service providers, allowing auction proceeds to go directly to benefit the historical society and its museum at Bug Light Park.

Whether you’re enjoying ocean breezes on a windjammer sail, a day at the ball park, or dining out in one of Maine’s terrific restaurants – that’s what summer in Maine is all about. Living in Vacationland means that we have terrific opportunities for fun things to do all around us. Anyone who spends time here in Maine in the summertime will be able to find great places to stay, cruises along Maine’s coast, museums, outdoor activities and more. You could bid on tickets for a round trip for two on the Amtrak Downeaster, a Portland Land-and-Sea Tour, a Portland Fire Engine tour, a cruise for two on the schooners Wendameen or Bagheera, a ride on the Downeast Duck, or tickets to visit York’s Animal Kingdom. You could bid on a membership to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens or to the Portland Museum of Art. How about the Sea Dogs Sky Box rental donated by Portland Tugboat or a boat rental from Port Harbor Marine? A sampling of other donors include the Victoria Mansion, Lucky Catch Lobstering, Casco Bay Lines, Maine State Music Theatre, Fore River Brewery, South Portland House of Pizza, Hampton Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn, and Village by the Sea. There are auction items in all price ranges up for bid.

Now that donors have generously given these great vacation items, the fundraiser is now in the hands of auction goers. Bidding will close and the auction will end at the Independence Day Classic Car Show, presented by Yankee Ford, after the society’s own Benjamin Franklin reads the Declaration of Independence at noon from the front porch of the museum.

Come place your bids at the museum at Bug Light Park. For more information, visit the South Portland Historical Society page on Facebook or call us with questions at 767-7299. Bids may also be emailed to us either on Facebook or at sphistory04106@gmail.com. Our thanks to the community for your continuing support of our historical society.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of South Portland Historical Society.

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