Town Seeking Funding Solutions for Communications Upgrade

A case of “sticker shock” means the Londonderry town administration and Fire Department will look at a better way to fund the expansion of communications for Police, Fire and Public Works.

Fire Chief Darren O’Brien and Battalion Chief Mike McQuillen appeared in Monday night’s budget workshop to discuss the expanded communications project. The Town Council did not have a quorum, with only Tom Freda and Chairman John Farrell present, so they did not make any decisions, but did support an effort to whittle down the price of the upgrade.

The upgrade is currently estimated at $4.2 million, McQuillen told the Councilors and Budget Committee. The break down is $2.3 million for infrastructure, to benefit all three public service agencies, and another $1.8 million to upgrade the dispatch consoles and provide communications equipment for personnel.

While Farrell allowed that the town could bond for the project, he added that Londonderry hasn’t had a bond for more than $2 million in 10 to 12 years. The last bond of that substance was the bond to build the Municipal Center and Police Station, he said.

Farrell observed, “There has to be someone who wants to ‘do business’ with us” and bring the price down. But at the same time, he added, “We want you to have what you need.”

It is a life safety issue, Farrell said, for both the department personnel and their constituents. “There must be a way,” he said, “to make this happen. To find someone who will work with you.”

Farrell observed that there are areas in town where police officers are engaged in a conflict and can’t engage with their central command. Fire personnel have a similar situation, he said, while McQuillen observed, “What the Highway Department is using is little better than strings and cups.”

McQuillen said he could fill some of the gaps, temporarily, by using some of their current equipment on the proposed infrastructure.

But there is a time element, department personnel agreed, with Motorola dropping support services for their current equipment by 2020.

McQuillen agreed to investigate options such as phasing the program in and a lease-purchase agreement.

“I encourage you to be creative, so taxpayers will understand we are doing this in the most prudent way,” Farrell said.

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