SOUTHBURY — The Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance had a special joint meeting to discuss and send a proposal to a town meeting for the radio refresh project on Thursday, November 18.
Both boards unanimously recommended the appropriation of approximately $1.8 million to a town meeting to fund the project.
The funds currently are earmarked in the town’s general fund. However, they have not been appropriated. Appropriation requires town meeting approval.
The general fund constitutes taxes previously raised, revenues, surpluses and so forth. The funds, essentially, are already in the town’s bank account waiting to be used, but require the approval of the town meeting in order to be used.
The Board of Selectmen, at its meeting later that same night, scheduled a town meeting to discuss and take action on the appropriation for 6:45 p.m. Monday, December 6, at Town Hall, 501 Main St. South.
Office of Emergency Management Director Steve Schnell, Finance Director Dan Colton and Don Antilla presented the proposal to the joint boards.
“The scope of this project is to upgrade the police, fire and dispatcher infrastructure and subscriber units,” Mr. Schnell said.
He said the project would upgrade the radios in police and fire vehicles, the radio infrastructure throughout town and the personal radios of police and fire.
“The communications equipment that the town currently has is either reaching end of production or end of support,” he said. “What that means is if it breaks, it’s very difficult to find parts to fix it and to buy the same equipment we have without upgrading everything.”
Mr. Schnell said the fire department needs better communication throughout town and in dense buildings. He added that the antenna equipment is approaching the recommended replacement time.
“As the equipment gets older, we’re seeing more failures with the subscriber units,” he said. “We need to make things happen now.”
Mr. Schnell said the town inventoried current equipment, identified the minimum amount of spares needed, put out a request for proposal, conducted informal meetings and reviewed the RFPs with a consultant.
“What we’re looking at is a conventional simulcast system,” he said.
He said the town has five different sites throughout town. The simulcast system allows dispatchers to send out calls on three sites and town emergency services to respond on five sites.
“That gives us the best coverage that we can utilize,” he said. “That gives us 95 percent coverage, which is the minimum that we were looking for.”
He said the new system would be a P25, which is the national standard, and would allow the town to link its system with the State Police’s.
“The multiple sites would be connected via fiber optic, which is the backbone of the infrastructure. When they key up, within milliseconds it activates all the transmitters and receivers,” Mr. Schnell said. “We’re also looking at the backup power at each one of the sites.”
He said the Radio Committee looked at two proposals from Motorola Solutions and one from Marcus Communications. He said the town hired a consultant to help draft follow up questions and to review the two proposals with the Radio Committee.
“Our committee is making the recommendation that we go with the Motorola Solutions proposal,” Mr. Schnell said. “It checks all the boxes that we’re looking for.”
He said the Motorola Solutions proposal’s $1.8 million covers the entire system infrastructure including the site equipment, dispatch consoles, antenna systems and subscriber units for police and fire.
Mr. Schnell said the proposal covers a mobile radio for each police car, a mobile radio for each fire truck, a portable radio for every police officer and a portable radio for every seat in the fire truck.
He said, “we’re not buying a bunch of extra [radios] to sit on the shelf somewhere.”
Mr. Schnell said the town currently has a Motorola system, so the new one would be essentially an upgrade.
First Selectman Jeff Manville added the town hadn’t upgraded its radios since 2006.
“We’re going from analog to digital, which is going to be an improvement on the system,” Mr. Manville said.
Mr. Antilla said, “[the proposed system] is about as modern as you can get.”
Mr. Antilla added that the town would get both hardware and software support for the equipment.
“The initial budgeted number that we originally looked at was over $3 million, and by us going through this process, we’re down to $1.8 million,” he said.
Mr. Colton added that the $1.8 million includes a 15 percent contingency.
“Based upon the size and the scope of the project, we felt it would be good just to put something in there as a contingency,” Mr. Colton said.
Mr. Colton said the town needs to issue a purchase order by Wednesday, December 15 before prices increase.
Representatives from Southbury Police Department and the Southbury Volunteer Fire Department told the two boards they were in favor of the proposal.
Board of Finance member John Reilly asked about the plan for the old radio equipment.
Mr. Colton said the old equipment is still usable and would be repurposed to the Public Works Department.
Mr. Antilla said the old radios would continue to work for an unknown amount of time, and suggested the town could maybe get another five to 10 years out of them.
Mr. Colton added that the Radio Commission predicted the town would have enough repurposed radios as spares to keep the radios going as they start to fail.