DALTON, Mass. — Alarmed to learn of major gaps in police radio reception in town, a majority of the Select Board backed a plan to fast-track funding to fix the issue.
Police Chief Deanna Strout outlined the issues underlying the department's insufficient radio reception, which leaves officers out of contact in numerous locations throughout town.
"Even when I was a sergeant on patrol, our radio service was atrocious, to say the least," Strout told the Select Board this week, describing several areas of town where reception is absent.
"If the officers are on a call and something goes terribly wrong, they have no radio communication," said Strout. "I lose sleep over this. It's terrifying to me that our guys have no communication."
Strout said one recent issue causing loss of all service in the south end had been corrected by removing a failing repeater from a vacant building in Pittsfield to a spot at Craneville School. The chief credited the school department with "moving mountains" over April vacation week to make that installation possible.
But with a repeater that Strout said is "not even certified for public safety use," it's just not enough.
The newly installed police chief said she has already applied for a $20,000 grant to upgrade the system, and prepared a capital request for the coming fiscal year as a backup. Select Board Vice Chair Joe Diver, however, felt more rapid action should be taken to fund a solution.
"I don't want to wait," said Diver. "I think we need to make this a priority."
Diver pushed to fast track a transfer of unused funds from another department, running through the town's Finance Committee this week and have the Select Board finalize it on May 3, prior to the town meeting.
Interim Town Manager Sandra Albano said that even with a transfer of funds authorized, the town will still need to put it out to bid in accordance with procurement laws, as the cost of the equipment will be over $10,000.
Strout will work to obtain the three quotes needed to satisfy procurement law requirements, and also find out whether purchasing the system now will make Dalton ineligible for reimbursement if they're awarded the grant later.
"We have to be prepared to spend our own money if we want to move faster," said Select Board member Dan Esko.
A majority of the board agreed, approving the motion 3-1, with John Boyle opposed, and Marc Strout abstaining from discussion.
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