Naugatuck planning upgrade for emergency communications

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials are working on a plan to upgrade equipment to improve communications for the police, fire and public works departments.

The borough is looking to install four new radio antennas — two for the police department because of two different types of radios the department uses and one each for the fire and public works departments — on a cell tower being built on land at 641 Maple Hill Road.

The borough leased the land to Tarpon Towers, a wireless communication company based out of Bradenton, Fla., for the cell tower. Work on the tower is underway. The structure is nearly completed and is expected to be fully operational in April, according to Assistant Fire Chief Walter Seaman, who is coordinating the project to upgrade equipment.

“The main goal of the project is to increase radio coverage,” Seaman said.

Seaman said there are dead zones for radio coverage on the east side of the borough. The project aims to reduce some of the dead zones, he said.

“I believe the radio project will increase our coverage as we often struggle in that area of town,” Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister said.

The project will allow the departments to efficiently communicate with each other during emergencies over a greater area, Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

“This upgrade is long overdue and is critical in order to protect our emergency service workers,” Hess said.

The project also includes a 10-foot-by-12-foot concrete shelter at the tower site to house radio equipment and a 30-kilowatt generator that can be used in the event power is lost, Seaman said. The generator will have increased fuel storage for a longer run time, he said.

Communication was an issue during Tropical Storm Isaias last August. The Naugatuck Fire Department lost all radio communication during the storm and the police department lost some of its communication network, too, after all five tower sites in the borough went down due to power loss and downed phone lines, according to Seaman.

The borough had to rely on radios from the state. The fire department had over 100 calls that day, Seaman said.

Under the plan, public works will get 13 new mobile radios and two portable radios, Seaman said. He said the department is just as important as fire and police during emergencies.

“Public works plays a big role. They are part of that emergency services team, whether it’s storm-related or a lot of snow,” Seaman said. “They need to be able to have good communication as well as we do.”

Public Works Director James Stewart said communication is generally poor for the department.

“Right now we really have to live with people’s cell phone for the most part,” Stewart said.

“We can’t communicate from one truck to another, sometimes when they’re immediately adjacent to one another,” Stewart added.

The total estimated cost of the project is $191,022, Controller Allyson Bruce said.

She said $31,677 is already in the borough’s budget and will cover costs associated with the tower site, the generator and maintenance.

The cost for the public works upgrade is $55,866 and will be paid from fees collected by the town clerk’s office, Bruce said.

The fire and police departments’ upgrades will cost $99,082. Borough officials plan to abate $700 a month from Tarpon Towers lease agreement to pay it off. The company pays the borough $1,530 a month for rent.

“This is a town-wide project. The fire department just took the lead on the project,” Seaman said. “We’ve all been working together in unison. It’s going to greatly benefit the borough and add protection to its citizens.”