Tuesday night, Waterford's Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a draft agreement to allow New London to tap into , potentially saving both municipalities money.
“I don’t see it as a lot of downside,” First Selectman Dan Steward said. “I see it as a lot of upside for both Waterford and New London.”
The agreement, which extends until 2018, still needs to be approved by the Waterford Representative Town Meeting and the New London City Council, who will both vote on it next week. The move would have the city use Waterford’s existing radio network for public safety, which could save Waterford roughly $75,000 per year and save New London millions of dollars.
Waterford recently completed a $6.5 million radio system, which covers all of New London. New London would tap into that system while providing all of its own radios to its public safety personnel, to comply with a mandate from the Federal Communications Commission.
The Full Story
Five years ago, the FCC mandated that all municipalities must be using a 800 MHZ frequency for their public safety radio system by January 1, 2013. Well, five years went by and as RTM Moderator Tom Dembek put it, “the city of New London hasn’t done a darn thing.”
The FFC will shut off all of New London’s radios on that date, as they do not comply with the new mandate, Steward said. To upgrade to a 800 MHZ frequency, the city would have to install a new radio system to the tune of roughly $4 million, he said.
Instead, New London can tap into Waterford’s existing system. New London will use the “backbone” of Waterford’s system, while purchasing all its own radios and having its own channels.
Waterford’s radio system covers all of New London, Steward said. It will cost the town no extra money to have New London on the system, he said.
In return, New London will pay approximately one-third of the $225,000 annual maintenance cost for the system, or about $75,000, according to Steward. New London will pay one-third of the cost because the city has approximately half the amount of radios Waterford has, and the formula set in the agreement is based on the amount of radios each town has, he said.
Steward said he is also talking with “another client” about adding them to the system as well, which would further defray the costs for New London and Waterford. Steward refused to comment on who that client was after the selectmen's meeting.
The transition would have to happen by the end of the year, so New London can avoid breaking the mandate set by the FCC, Steward said. He said he was very hopeful to get this passed quickly, stressing again it is a savings for both towns.
The agreement would also make it unnecessary for New London to have to put a radio tower at Ocean Beach, something . New London's radio system currently doesn't cover the Ocean Beach area, although Waterford's system would, Steward said.
Who Is In Charge
Steward said there would have to be a governance council to preside over the radio system that would be composed of New London and Waterford people. However, the details of such a governance council do not exist in the agreement drafted by New London's and Waterford’s attorneys.
Steward said he “wasn’t sure” if there would be more Waterford people on the governance board than New London people, of if both municipalities would be equally represented. He said that would have to be worked out later.
The RTM will vote on the agreement on Monday. The New London City Council will vote on the agreement on Tuesday.