Town Administrator Jonathan Butler, right, and Selectman Arthur 'Skip' Harrington review budget items on Wednesday.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen will recommend the purchase of a $30,000 repeater tower and base radio in the police department's budget that will fix public safety and communication issues.
The items were approved along with Police Department budget and other line items during the board's continued review of the fiscal 2015 budget on Wednesday night.
Police Chief Richard Tarsa explained that because of government mandates in 2013, communities had to abide by narrow banding radio communication. Narrow banding does not provide clear radio communication to outlying areas in Adams, which include Hoosac Valley High school. Police handheld radios do not work in these areas, creating a safety hazard, he said.
"Of all the possibilities, this is the most viable solution to resolve not only our problems, but the high school's," Tarsa said. "It's an officer safety issue, it's a public safety issue, and a safety issue for each student and staff member at Hoosac Valley."
The repeater tower will allow the new base radio to reach outlying areas and amplify the signal. It will be placed at Hoosac Valley.
"Part of the repeater situation was to locate the repeater at Hoosac Valley and, within the whole package, provide them with four handheld radios on the Adams Police frequency," Tarsa said. "This way they have the ability to contact and communicate with us during a school crisis."
Tarsa said in the future this repeater can be converted to digital and can have multiple frequencies that connect to the Adams Police.
Along with the repeater, the board approved the purchase of a $37,000 sport utility vehicle to combat the department's aging fleet of cruisers.
"We have only added two new cruisers to our fleet in the past six years and we are due to start catching up,” Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said. “We have some aging vehicles ... and I think we are in the position where we really have to commit to a cruiser in this year’s budget and next year’s budget to make sure we are back on track and our officers are driving sufficient equipment.”
Tarsa said the department has two cruisers that need to be replaced soon, but a 2004 Ford Expedition needs to be replaced now because it will not pass its next inspection.
"That vehicle is going to be off the road come August if not sooner," Tarsa said.
Butler explained both of these items are paid for out of free cash.
The board also approved operating expenses in the Police Department that increased by $1,000 because of state mandates in reserve training.
Tarsa explained that money is needed to bring on new reserves to the force. The police only have two reserves and Tarsa expects one police officer to retire every year for the next three years. Both Tarsa and Butler advocated for a "minor league" reserve system that would prepare new officers for the thinning department.
"I need to have a minor league team where I have enough reserves on board, and it's the type of situation where you can't say, 'OK, well do it next year.' You have to start recruiting now," Tarsa said.
Tarsa explained that part of this increase is to accommodate training for new reserve officers. He added that as of 2011, the state has mandated that reserve police officers receive a higher level of training, which is $500 per officer.
"The only way we can prepare ourselves for not only the existing circumstances but the upcoming retirements is to basically stock our list of reserve offers and get them ready," Butler said.
In addition to the budget approvals, the Selectmen approved the ratification of James Waltermire as the new working foreman for the Department of Public Works. Waltermire has been an employee of the DPW for about two years.
"I think Jim is a guy with a lot of initiative and is what we need right now in the DPW," Butler said.
Although the board approved Waltermire, board members Blanchard and Nowak shared some reservations toward the approval because they received complaints from people.
"Promotions are tough because you aren't dealing with candidates that are new to the town, you are dealing with your own employees," Butler said. "In departments of this size when there is a position for promotion available, there tends to be different camps that develop and that is exactly what has happened here."
Waltermire has a six-month probation period in his new position.