Council Pens Communications System Contract
WETHERSFIELD - A contract for a new $3.6 million emergency radio system, along with an extra $2.9 million for a 15-year maintenance warranty, has been officially inked with Harris Communications, Wethersfield Town Manager Jeff Bridges announced at last Monday’s Town Council meeting.
“It’s setting the tone for public safety communications for the next generation,” Bridges said during his Town Manager’s report.
The new system, which boasts a multi-brained design as a fail-safe feature, is expected to remain functional in less than ideal weather and includes two high availability switches, transmitters at three sites, new radios for every police and fire vehicle, and new dispatch consoles, amongst other features.
Not everyone, however, is happy with the news. Wethersfield resident Robert Young, a staunch critic of Council spending, alleged that the purchase was unnecessary.
“I never heard [Police Chief James Cetran] say that we needed a new system,” Young said during the public comments segment, in which he commented on the radio expenditure, amongst other issues. “All this Council does is waste, and waste.”
If Young hasn’t heard Cetran voice his support for the purchase, he has now--the police chief took the podium during the Council comments segment to explain how a faulty Motorola system, which the town bought in 2001 for between $3.5 and $4 million, has impacted officers responding to calls.
“We’ve had numerous failures; failures that occurred at crucial times,” Cetran said. “Our officers were at risk.”
These failures included losing contact with responders during police chases, Cetran said.
“I likened it to playing Russian Roulette,” he said. “You didn’t know when it was going to happen, but you knew it was going to happen. The radio system was very dangerous for us.”
Wethersfield is in the midst of a lawsuit with Motorola, which councilors say provided equipment that became obsolete, outdated, and consequently, irreplaceable. Under the new contract, the extra $2.9 million will cover equipment replacement for 15 years, unless the town decides to renegotiate or opt out of the terms after the first five years.
The deal also prohibits Harris from forcing the town to upgrading equipment in the event that something becomes outdated. The warranty, however, does not include user equipment--that will cost an additional $1 million, according to Assistant Town Manager Rae Ann Palmer.
“We’re buying a substantial amount of parts with the $3.6 million, so we’ll have a number of parts available,” Bridges said.
Most of the $2.1 million price tag will be directed toward building necessary infrastructure, while much of the rest will cover software components of the system.
Police and fire personnel will be able to get 96 percent guaranteed portable coverage indoors, and 97 percent outdoors, Harris Area Sales Manager Ann Marie Stafford told Councilmembers at an earlier public meeting.
The radio system can also be connected to a smartphone app, which can be useful if personnel are in an area with spotty coverage.
An XG-75 portable public safety radio included in the deal has the ability to cut out ambient sound through the use of a two-microphone, noise cancellation mechanism, according to explained Scott Tschetter of Eastern Communications, who spoke at a previous meeting.
Eastern Communications is providing engineering support.