Dollars for dispatch

MANCHESTER - A much sought-after federal grant needed to replace an aging dispatch system for the police and fire departments, as well as the rescue squad, has been obtained.

In November of 2013, the town applied for a grant from the Department of Homeland Security for the purchase of the dispatch system. In the beginning of March, Manchester found out that they received the grant.

The announcement was made during Tuesday's Select Board meeting at the Town Hall.

"The original grant request was over $200,000 for three dispatch consoles," Ivan Beattie, chair of the select board said. "On March 1st, the town received notification the grant was approved as amended by the state, and of course the state, in their infinite wisdom decided to grant us $88, 895, which pays for one dispatch console."

This will not cover the installation or any of the spare parts, which are necessary to keep dispatch up and running in the event of a malfunction. This amount will also not cover the second and third console the town had hoped to purchase and the grant must be executed by July 31 of this year, Beattie said.

"This poses certain challenges," he said.

Fire Chief Philip "Grub" Bourn told the select board Tuesday that the fire department had agreed to purchase for $12,140 the spare [back up cards for the radio], which would work as back up in case the console were ever damaged. The vendor has never sold a system without a spare, Bourn said. The current system is antiquated and there are no back up cards, and you can't buy them. These new consoles will allow better communication between police and fire as well, he said.

"The company is out of business and no longer making parts," he said. "When we had the meltdown a couple of years ago...the only place we could find cards was eBay...It was about five days [we did not have dispatch] we were working on mobile radios."

The fire department will also pay the $11,760 for installation of the system. This money, as well as the cost of the spares, will come from the equipment reserve fund, Bourn said.

Beattie said the fire department will loan the town the money to pay for the spare, which will then be returned to the equipment reserve fund.

"The difficulty for us is, had we had this information prior to town meeting...we could have warned something to try and get some funding in place," he said. "If we don't have, within the context of what they've given us here, time to even put a special town meeting together. It looks like they're trying to set us up to fail."

Bourn said if the town were to start charging for their dispatch services, they should - in his opinion - purchase the second unit, with a lease agreement. There would be additional cost of installation, as well as software to integrate the two consoles.

In reality, instead of purchasing three units in total, one primary, one mobile and one backup, the backup could be a mobile unit, with the potential to buy a third in the future, Beattie said.

"If you purchase a second unit, that could be a mobile unit," Bourn said. "If we have something like Irene, it could go up in the EOC [ Emergency Operation Control]...last summer, when we had those storms, we were inundated. We got 50 calls in 15 would have been nice to have that other console, where calls could be funneled over and we could talk to DPW [Department of Public Works], police department and fire."

John O'Keefe, the town manager, said that these consoles and radios have the ability to also use global positioning system technology to show where the user is located. Police Chief Michael Hall said that while this unit will be housed at the Police Department, it would work if you brought it anywhere there was an Internet connection.

The price of the console would be lower if the town agreed to be a demonstration site, O'Keefe said. However, currently the town would only be able to purchase one unit.

It was agreed to purchase the first unit, along with the spares.

In other news, the lease for the ambulance purchase for the Manchester Rescue Squad was finalized in an executive session. Pauline Moore was also named the town assessor. Town lister is no longer a position in town. It was removed and replaced with assessor during Town Meeting.


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