NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 30, 2012

Safety personnel apply for grant to upgrade radio communication

By Jennifer Solis
Correspondent

---- — WEST NEWBURY — Public Safety officials got permission to investigate a $500,000 Community Innovation Challenge grant in hopes of improving regional communications and addressing problems with in-town emergency radio capacity.

At a meeting last week, police Chief Lisa Holmes and fire Chief Scott Berkenbush told selectmen the grant would be applied for jointly by safety personnel in Amesbury, Merrimac, Newburyport, Salisbury and West Newbury. The microwave radio system would provide a foundation that each community could tap into, Holmes said following the meeting.

It would facilitate inter-town communications among police, fire and dispatcher departments. And it would also improve radio transmission from West Newbury’s dispatch center to local safety personnel working in certain areas of town where currently the connection can be sketchy or non-existent.

The town has radio repeaters located at Page Elementary School and Pentucket High School, but communication from the dispatch center to police and fire radios in the valley sections of other parts of town can be unreliable, Holmes said. This creates a dangerous situation for both first responders and the public they are aiming to serve.

Because she has been consistently updating radios within her operating budge t over the past five years to accommodate narrow banding, Holmes said if the grant were to be approved, hooking into the radio system would require “very minimal funds.”

Gov. Deval Patrick recently announced $4 million in funding for the next round of CIC grant program. According to the state website, the program “ invests and incentivizes innovation amount local governments through regionalization and other reforms and efficiencies to maintain critical local services and stretch every taxpayer dollar as far as possible.” The deadline to apply for this round is today.

In other business last Tuesday, selectmen discussed the resignation of chief assessor Karen Rassais and the status of the Page Elementary School lease. Liquor licenses for West Newbury Foodmart and West Newbury Pizza Company were renewed.

The board OK’d use of the Town Annex for a retirement party in February and approved two street openings requests. A third street — for 243 Main St. and Newall Farm Drive — was not approved because it was unclear where National Grid was looking to install the gas line. Town counsel Michael McCarron reviewed minor changes to the Comcast contract renewal.

Selectmen meet next on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. in the first floor hearing room of the 1910 Town Office Building. An agenda for an upcoming meeting can be accessed on the town website www.wnewbury.org