At a Price! Connecticut Towns and Cities Weigh Benefits of Regional Radio System

Towns and cities have to ask themselves whether the cost savings of joining the Connecticut State Police regional radio system are worth losing local control

A new police radio system for your town or city costs a fortune, to the tune of millions of dollars.

In the past year an alternative has been offered by the state that can get departments up and running with a new system that’s much faster, often at a third of the cost.

Connecticut State Police just spent $30 million upgrading and updating its network. It has so much bandwidth, that it can provide space to broadcast on the network for free, according to Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella.

“This is great, for a lot of these towns. And the bigger picture is the ability to communicate with anyone and everyone that is on the system on a bad day in the state of Connecticut,” Rovella said.

Communities including the towns of Groton, Stonington, Coventry, and Norwich, told NBC Connecticut Investigates that joining the State Police network will save them millions of dollars, affording them a brand new, state of the art police radio system at a third of the cost, or less. The municipalities still must purchase new handheld and car radios, additional dispatch software, and radio tower enhancements.

“For something that was going to cost us in the neighborhood of three, three and a half million dollars, we’ve found a system that gets it, to the same capabilities and then some for less than a million dollars, for around $800,000,” said Groton Town Police Chief L.J. Fusaro.

Fusaro, a retired state trooper with experience using the state police network, sees no downsides to this new relationship.

He said joining the regional system means better service at a lower cost his department, as well as fewer towers and equipment to maintain. Given those benefits, he said he’s OK giving up that local control, something that has often been a roadblock to regional efforts like this in the past in Connecticut.

“I don’t want to manage a radio system, to the extent that I don’t need to. So having collaboration with an organization, an agency that has some very skillful people and some very knowledgeable people when it comes to radio communications is huge for me as a municipal police chief.”

Not every Connecticut town sees it this way. Avon taxpayers recently voted to spend more than $4 million on a police radio network serving their town only.

At a recent town meeting Avon town manager Brandon Robertson, a member of the state’s E911 commission, told residents “… we just didn’t think it was wise to throw our lot in with the state of Connecticut…the initial savings on a $4.1 million project was estimated to be about $500,000, and we thought for the $500,000, we would rather retain control.”

Neither Robertson nor the Avon Police Department granted an on camera interview for this story.

In a statement the chief said:

“The Town of Avon conducted a comprehensive study concerning its proposal to replace the town’s existing conventional analog communications system, meeting the Project (25) Standard. The Town has selected a vendor and voters have accepted the proposal through a referendum this past December. At this time, the Town of Avon feels it is in the best interest of the community to maintain our own core to meet our public safety needs. This system is a town-wide radio system to include Police, Fire, Public Works and Board of Education. While we recognize that we may realize initial cost savings in the short-term, our long-term investment in a core owned by Avon will not only meet our needs, but those of the region, should they wish to join. Additionally, this will give us the ability to plan our budget needs without any unanticipated State increases.”

NBC Connecticut Investigates has requested a copy of the study Avon conducted on replacing its communications system, but has not received it to date.

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