Durham officials will soon be able to communicate more easily with public safety personnel around the state when it incorporate the town’s radio devices into the Connecticut Land Mobile Radio Network.
“Because we are at the precipice of having to replace our subscriber units anyway, now is the time we have the opportunity to buy those ones that are particularly compatible with this platform,” First Selectman Laura Francis said. Subscriber units refer to portable handheld radios.
The Land Mobile Radio Network is maintained by the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, providing voice communications to state police and other statewide personnel and, after a recent upgrade, interested municipalities.
Durham will not be charged for joining the network, but will be responsible for buying compatible radios and making upgrades to the coverage as needed. Clayton Northgraves, DESSP director of emergency telecommunications, said he would fight any future efforts to charge municipalities should a proposal come forward.
“When you start charging, you put a barrier to interoperability and public safety,” Northgraves told the Board of Selectman prior to its approval of the move in March.
Dan Geary, the town’s communications official, said the current system was purchased with a grant in 2004 and needs to be completely replaced anyway. He said the typical lifespan for public safety radio equipment is about 10 years and the system is showing signs of aging.
“The existing equipment … is either no longer produced or it's at the end of its support, so we have to do something,” Geary said. “It's either replace what we have and keep our own little island in Durham, or join up with the state infrastructure and then be able to inter-operate with everyone.”
Francis said the ability to connect across municipalities will be especially helpful with public safety at the Durham Fair, which draws thousands of people annually. The system will be used by the town’s fire department, ambulance service, public works and some will be available as needed for emergency management, utilities when in town, and the fair. The resident state trooper is already connected through the state police.
Some money has been set aside in the budget for new radios and pagers, but town officials are looking to create a new capital account to save money for certain equipment purchases.
“It could be a million dollars, but we’re still working on it,” Francis said.
The 2019-20 budget proposal is expected early April.
The town is looking at phasing in the new radios on a need basis to more spread out the cost.
Several municipalities have also joined the state’s system, including Darien, Madison, Litchfield, Stonington and Coventry, while others, including large cities, are in discussion.