Milford PD hoping to renovate communications center

MILFORD- Voters may recall Articles 4 and 5, which were on the ballot in March, concerning the town’s emergency communications dispatch center which Milford police have said is failing.

There have also been discussions that the town of Milford, i.e., the police department, would like to exit the MACC base and create a system that would be their own.

The vote on article 4 and a proposed $2.4 million to build a new dispatch center failed to reach the required 60 percent – missing by 7 percent. Article 5, a proposal to upgrade the existing center, also failed to reach the 60 percent mark.

On August 25, 2020, the Milford police department sent a letter to the board of selectmen, soliciting proposals from architectural and engineering firms to develop an addition and renovation to the existing communications center.

Captain Craig Frye of the Milford PD noted that the board approved the proposed RFP.

“They did pass the CTA study in 2018,” he said. “The consultants did their work and found that the system is failing, so it is in Milford’s best interest to send out the RFP for a price that’s within 3-5 percent of what the actual cost would be. And, the board of selectmen voted yes.”

Consequently, the Milford PD is talking to tech giants such as Motorola and Harris (known as L3-Harris), to request a bid on the new Milford Area Communications Center or MACC.

“We’re looking at these and other firms to build a dispatch center for us,” Frye said. “The Summer Street antenna is still being considered.”

Frye said another RFP is underway that would address the possibility of having a new antenna at the police station located at 19 Garden Street.

The proposal for the new dispatch center would be housed in part of the police station’s current lobby, which would be reconfigured. Fyre said the department is optimistic about the new proposals.

“We feel positive about it,” he said. “Even though we lost the vote by 7 percent, it was actually voted yes – it just didn’t pass the 60 percent that was required. And Article 5 did lose by a big majority. But we’re doing exactly what the taxpayers asked us to do. We’re trying to get it closer to an exact price.”

The department asked vendors to hold their quoted prices for a year, until the voters head back to the voting booths in March of next year.

“We don’t really know what the voters are going to do in March,” Frye remarked. “We’ll have another presentation at the deliberative session, and hopefully, we’ll pick up that 7 percent.”

Frye also stated that a letter of intent was sent to MACC base, essentially stating that the department would be exiting the existing system.

“It’s a matter of time,” he said. “It’s a letter of intent, not a letter saying that we’re leaving. And the letter said that we would continue to strive for our own dispatch center.”

The MACC situation has been discussed publicly, and the towns of Wilton, Lyndeborough and Mont Vernon are aware of the situation.

“Every town that’s involved with MACC base, even MACC base itself, have all said that the system is failing,” Frye stated. “The equipment system is failing and the question is, who is going to pay for it.”

The town of Milford currently owns 71 percent of the MACC base. Their preference is to have sole ownership of the MACC base – 100 percent.

“Owning our own equipment allows us to control our own destiny,” Frye said. “We can then do what we want to do with it and make four departments in the town of Milford whole, versus one department, which would have been the police department, if you follow article 5.”

Ultimately, Frye said that the decision to upgrade or replace the system comes down to the bottom dollar.

“It comes down to who’s willing to foot the bill,” he said. “I’m not saying anything negative about Mont Vernon, Lyndeborough or Wilton, but we pay 71 percent of it. If they wanted to fix it equally and be equal partners like they keep striving to be, that would be a third each, and that’s a lot of money.”

Milford is the biggest user of the MACC base and Frye said, “You hate to end the relationship but we’ve said it all along- we are building this with the opportunity to take on customers, meaning Mont Vernon, Lyndeborough and Wilton.”

The new MACC base has the capacity to do just that. Frye said that’s putting the ball in the other court.

“The door is open, it’s not closed,” he said. “That’s what we’ve always told them.”

Frye stated that the department is still having problems with dropped calls, often relying on their cell phones when they’re on calls. Their personal radio equipment often fails in “dead zones.”

“Last month, we sent a letter to the board of selectmen with the results of spending extra money to have all of our equipment tested,” he said. “And it all came back working fine. You won’t hear that result too openly, because the people who want us to stay with MACC base were hoping that maybe our equipment wasn’t working. People thought it was our equipment that needed to be fixed and not the system.”

By having all of their equipment tested, the Milford PD was able to determine that minor repairs were required, including having one of their antennas trimmed.

“The power that was getting out was fine,” Frye said. “Basically, their question was answered by experts in the field who came out the first week of August and spent three days here. It was good that it worked out well, that what we were saying is exactly right. Our equipment is fine.”