Citizens rip dispatch plan

MILFORD – No one at the town budget hearing last week seemed to like a proposal to spend $2.5 million to start Milford’s own emergency communications system.

For nearly an hour of the four-hour meeting people questioned and criticized the plan, whose purpose is to allow Milford to set up its own agency in place of MACC-Base, the four-town communication center.

Ron Carvell, chairman of the school board, told selectmen there are too many unanswered questions and it would be worth spending $100,000 on a long range plan designed by an expert.

“Every day officers are at risk,” he said, because of dead spots in radio communication. “If we are going to own it, we better own it right.”

And Peg Seward, of the budget committee, said, “We have a system that worked so well for us … I wish we could spend a little more time having (the other towns) involved with the decision.”

Other residents who said they are familiar with emergency communications criticized details of the proposal. One said the project could cost much more than $2.5 million, and Beltronics had the correct response to the RFP – more details are needed.

Gil Archambault, of the town’s capital improvement plan committee, called the warrant article “a mess” and the town should have been putting money away for years.

After consultants advised the town to go on its own, Milford officials sent out requests for proposals and received back two responses – one from 2-Way Communications of Newington and one from Beltronics of Hollis. Beltronics’ proposal was rejected because it asked for more information.

Selectmen’s Chairman Kevin Federico said police talked with officials in other towns who told them not to write specifics in the town’s request for proposal so they can choose a vendor who can give the town a complete solution.

But residents didn’t sound convinced.

“I hope you’re not asking us to buy a pig in a poke,” said Rodney Richey. Tricia Shea said people need to see a “solid plan” with a cost breakdown.

Federico said the board has been talking about the need for new equipment for eight years, and there are well-known and well documented issues with Milford’s 33-year-old agreement with MACC-Base.

At the end of its newly signed two-year contract with MACC-Base, Milford will go on its own and the bond will allow the town to do that, he said. Officials say the basic problem is that the MACC-Base agreement doesn’t allow borrowing, and Milford needs to bond new equipment.

About $400,000 of the $2.5 million would go toward building space onto the police station for a new dispatch center. The plan from 2-Way Communications also estimated an extra $1.57 million if other towns, Wilton, Mont Vernon and Lyndeborough, were included.

Last week the Wilton select board told their town administrator to contact equipment providers in a first step toward determining their needs without Milford. Chairwoman Kellie-Sue Boissonault called Milford’s plan “a slap in the face,” because, she said, Milford had assured Wilton they were not going on their own.

The discussion on the bond, Article 3 in the 34 article warrant, will continue at the Feb. 2 Milford Town Deliberative. Session.

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

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