Consultants: Milford should leave MACC-Base

MILFORD – The town should start its own emergency communications operation, invest in upgraded equipment and leave MACC-Base, said consultants who recently completed a study of Milford’s dispatch operations.

Staying in the three-town communications system, with Wilton and Mont Vernon, is “not a viable option” for Milford, said Brian Duggan, of Municipal Resources, Inc. at the Sept. 10 selectmen’s meeting.

“The operation does not meet the needs of the community,” Duggan said, as he and Thomas Garrity went over highlights of their 81-page report.

Milford police have the biggest problem, they said. When there is more than one cruiser at a scene there are major communications issues. The equipment company, Beltronics, put together a good plan for upgrading equipment and adding cell tower sites, but nothing was done, they said, because MACC-Base can not finance improvements, it can only borrow money and pay it back within the same year.

“You need to own your own infrastructure,” Garrity told Milford officials. “The only way to bond is for a municipality to sponsor the bond, and that hasn’t happened,” said Duggan, “and we don’t see a feasible way that could happen” under MACC-Base.”

The consultants noted that the other two towns do not have the same priorities, and Milford uses 75 percent of MACC-Base’s services and has only a 33 percent vote on operational issues and 50 percent on fiscal issues.

“Milford should create its own autonomous dispatch center,” he said, so that it can control its investments and not fall behind in the future.

The consultants laid out a plan for a communications center at the Milford Police Station, with $350,000 for renovations and more than $1 million for upgraded infrastructure.

Garrity said he experienced first hand Milford’s inadequate police radio communication.

“You have an analog system that picks up all sorts of background noises with the bandwidth, and it’s very difficult to hear,” he said, especially when a cruiser is in west Milford, near Wilton.

Having a dispatch center at the Milford Police Station also “does away with a dark police station unstaffed and locked” after hours, Duggan said.

The MACC-Base director has made a real effort over the years to upgrade equipment, the consultants said, and all dispatchers seem well-trained and experienced and should be offered positions in the new center first.

“There is no issue whatsoever with personnel,” they are quality people, Duggan said.

The consultants met with all stakeholders, including police and fire chiefs and the ambulance director, they said, as well as the Wilton and Mont Vernon police chiefs, and visited each facility and evaluated equipment.

Selectmen, who hired MRI a few months ago, agreed to accept the 81-page report. It is now on the town website.

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

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