July 22, 2018
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County nears deal to move dispatch center

By DOUG KESSELI, BDN Staff

BANGOR – Although details remain to be fleshed out, Penobscot County officials appeared to have reached a deal this week to move the county dispatch center to where the county and regional law library is now located.

“I think we’ve found some solutions,” Penobscot County Commissioner Tom Davis said Thursday, two days after a meeting between the county commissioners, state court officials, local attorneys and other county representatives.

As part of the proposal, the Penobscot Regional Communications Center, which dispatches emergency services for nearly all of Penobscot County, would relocate to the third floor of the Penobscot County Superior Courthouse later this summer or early fall. The move would put it closer to new radio equipment being installed and closer to the Penobscot County Emergency Management Agency.

As part of the initial trading spaces proposal, the law library, one of two regional facilities in the state, was to move to the basement of the 3rd District Court in Bangor where the PRCC currently is located.

But the legal community has already expressed opposition to that space even as a temporary home. The law library is to be relocated, along with the district and superior courts, to a new building in Bangor, in about 3 1/2 years.

“There is a high level of concern about the suitability of the space for the law library,” James Nixon, past president of the Penobscot County Bar Association, said Thursday.

Questions remain regarding whether the basement is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Nixon said. There are also environmental and aesthetic issues, officials have said, including that the law library should be located in a place of dignity, the county commissioners were told on Tuesday.

With no windows where dispatch is, the basement had been described as a “dark hole” by one dispatcher as part of frank assessments given to the county earlier this year.

Members of the county bar association are expected to be polled in the next week or two to see where they stand on the issue, Nixon said.

Although there may be little, if any, support to house the library in the district court basement, an alternative site already has emerged as a possibility. Officials are pursuing using the space on Union Street that formerly housed the Bangor Theological Seminary’s library.

The seminary moved to the Husson College campus, leaving behind space once dedicated to library materials that is still close to the downtown, officials said.

The state court system has made its intentions clear of moving away from the Hammond Street campus in a few years, but county officials have more pressing needs for that space. New equipment coming in this summer, including dispatch stations and upgrades to the Enhanced 911 emergency dispatching system, could be installed in a permanent location now, rather than a temporary space only to be relocated again – at a higher expense – later.

Even with many details that need to be hashed out, including any rents to be paid, renovation and added security costs, officials are optimistic that the deal will go through.

“I know we are going to do this,” Davis said.


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