MACC Base problems addressed

MILFORD – Milford police can’t communicate with each other over their portable radios, and because of the way the multitown communications center agreement is structured, MACC Base isn’t able to raise money for a technological fix.

That was the crux of the problem with the Milford Area Communication Center that Milford Selectman Kevin Federico outlined for selectmen from four towns last week during a roundtable meeting in the Milford Town Hall Auditorium.

“When officers are talking, a dispatcher can hear, but other officers can’t,” Milford Police Chief Michael Viola told the selectmen.

The towns’ intermunicipal agreement doesn’t allow borrowing large sums of money and doesn’t allow a capital reserve fund. It only allows spending money that’s in the MACC Base budget, Federico said.

“Our radio systems aren’t working for our police, and the Fire Department has a stop-gap fix,” he said.

Town Attorney William Drescher, he said, thought it best for the towns to reorganize, and used the Milford-Wilton regional sewer system as an example.

Over the 35-year existence of MACC Base, he said, “We’ve been Band-Aiding” problems to keep it running. But now there are “technological issues they can’t resolve without spending money.”

For Milford to spend on new equipment, he said, would expand the town budget past what voters would approve.

During the one-hour meeting, Federico, who was once a MACC Base employee, did nearly all of the talking, but met some resistance.

Jack Esposito, of Mont Vernon, said his town solved the same radio problem on its own by buying police radios.

Federico agreed it is “a town of Milford problem,” and that Milford has to decide how to best spend its money.

Lyndeborough Selectman Lee Mayhew said the solution is simple: Amend the intermunicipal agreement so that it authorizes a capital reserve fund and long-term debt.

Mark Schultz, a retired police chief and a Lyndeborough selectman, called MACC Base a great organization, but “privately, I’m concerned about Milford totally trying to run the show.”

MACC Base Director Jason Johnson went to the microphone to complain that he received no notice about the meeting.

“Honestly, Jason, this is a conversation we wanted to have with other selectmen, not with the (MACC Base) board of governors and not with the director,” said Federico, who earlier had said the director and dispatchers are “doing a fantastic job” and that there are no personnel issues.

“Are these four towns interested in sitting down and rewriting or not rewriting the intermunicipal agreement?” Federico said. “The director of MACC-Base has no bearing on this question.”

MACC Base equipment is on the top floor of Milford Town Hall, and the issue of moving it to the Milford Police Station came up.

Federico said he doesn’t like the idea, but experts say installing new equipment on top of old is problematic, costing $60,000 extra and an equipment outage of 12 hours.

He called MACC Base “a great organization” and said, “I don’t want to see it go,” but that Milford would have to make decisions based on what is best for the town.

“We need a conversation … about what is or isn’t possible,” Federico said. “At some point, Milford is going to have to make a decision.”

Selectmen agreed that two representatives from each town, a selectman and his designee, would meet in mid-February to discuss the issues.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.