Penobscot County voters approved a $6 million bond package to upgrade equipment used by the Penobscot Regional Communication Center to dispatch first responders. Credit: John Clarke Russ / BDN

A $6 million bond issue to fund upgrades to equipment on towers that relay signals between emergency responders and the Penobscot County Communications Center was approved by voters Tuesday, according to county officials.

County Administrator Bill Collins estimated Wednesday morning that the question passed by a 3-to-1 margin even though not all towns had reported results. Collins said he was comfortable saying the measure was approved because the larger municipalities, including those in Greater Bangor, the Katahdin region and Newport, reported that it had passed.

In Bangor, the bond issue passed 4,606 to 1,376, according to results posted on the city’s website.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, unofficial results compiled by the county and the Bangor Daily News from roughly three quarters of the municipalities in the county — including the five largest ones — showed that roughly 22,000 voters favored the measure and roughly 8,000 opposed it.

“This ensures that the public safety infrastructure in Penobscot County meets the needs of first responders as well its citizens,” Collins said.

The current tower equipment was installed in 1997, according to Chris Lavoie, the dispatch center’s director. Replacement parts are no longer manufactured and there are no alert systems that tell the center when there’s a malfunction or something’s quit working.

The bond would be repaid within 10 years, the duration of the equipment’s warranty. It will take between 12 and 18 months to get the new equipment installed and up and running, according to Lavoie.

The repayment on the bond would be about $700,000, a year, according to county Finance Director Judith Alexander. Using the 2020 assessment for the county that comes out to $3.50 per $100,000 assessed valuation.

The communications center, located on the third floor of the historic Penobscot County Courthouse on Hammond Street in Bangor, is the busiest in the state.

In 2019, it handled 63,830 calls to 911, 289,301 non-emergency calls and more than 1.5 million calls from first responders in the field to the center.