New London has taken a tentative step toward joining Waterford’s new emergency communications system after the City Council approved a non-binding memorandum of understanding and letter of intent on the matter.
The document was approved unanimously in a roll call vote. The Public Safety Committee had to have Law Director Jeffrey Londregan review it to ensure that it does not yet officially enter into an agreement with Waterford.
Lt. Brett Mahoney of the Waterford Police Department told the Finance Committee at the Public Safety Committee that the system will meet an accepted radio standard by providing 95 percent coverage to New London 95 percent of the time. The memorandum of understanding says that Waterford will agree to include New London on its new $6.5 million emergency communications system.
“The terms and conditions of this venture have yet to be finalized,” the document reads, “however New London as a part of this memorandum of understanding agrees that they will operate in this radio system approximately 215 portable radios, and approximately 135 mobile radios (numbers to be finalized), as well as a dispatch console within the city of New London.”
In a letter to Mayor Daryl Finizio of New London, First Selectman Dan Steward of Waterford said Waterford has a trunked narrow band system allowing departments to use the service without interfering with other communities' communications. Steward said inclusion on the system can also allow different communities to coordinate in a major emergency, and that Waterford is currently capable of communicating with the Connecticut State Police, East Lyme, Montville, and the Millstone Power Station.
Steward says Waterford had to install several tower and base equipment sites for the system, but that New London and Groton City could be included on the system without additional construction. He said the New London police and fire departments have tested Waterford radios in several places around New London.
Steward estimates that it would cost New London approximately $4 million to upgrade its own radio system to meet a federal requirement to switch to narrow band frequency by January of 2013. He said the cost to purchase the new radios to join the Waterford system would be “less than $1.1 million plus installation.” New London would also pay half of the estimated $204,000 maintenance costs.
“We are prepared to share our backbone of services with New London as a community partner,” Steward writes. “There are several things beyond a memorandum of understanding that are needed but it could result in major savings for the city of New London.”
Inclusion on the Waterford system has been proposed as an alternative to the proposed construction of a at to enhance emergency communications and cell phone coverage. The tower is estimated to bring in $1.2 million in revenue, which would be used for the upkeep of the park. Some nearby residents have spoken out against the tower, saying it will lower property values and be vulnerable to extreme weather.