The Town of Stonington’s board of finance approved a $1.3 million upgrade to the police department’s radio system.
"We have put Band-Aids over Band-Aids on our current system," Stonington Police Captain Todd Olson said.
The problems with the 18-year-old system are that it cuts out in certain parts of town, some repair parts are too tough to come by and police can’t talk directly to ambulance, fire and neighboring police departments. Currently, police need to go through dispatch to ask questions during an emergency, according to Olson.
"Components of that system are failing at an alarming rate," Olson said.
The Stonington Board of Finance approved the money to upgrade the system and tie it into the state’s radio system so officers can talk to state police and state agencies.
"If our police department cannot receive a report and dispatch an officer, then we can’t provide public safety to our citizens. Communication is vital to public safety," First Selectman Rob Simmons said.
Tapping into the state’s current system is much cheaper than having the town build its own, Simmons said.
Stonington will add an antennae to its current radio tower, Olson said.
This type of connection to the state’s system is a first, according to Scott DeVico, a spokesperson for the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. He said it will benefit first responders, including Connecticut State Police, since they’ll be able to communicate directly with each other when needed.
The system is used by many state, municipal and federal agencies, DeVico said, adding this will greatly increase Stonington police’s coverage compared to a town-only system.
"This is what you do when money is tight. This is what you do when the Governor is cutting back. You collaborate," Simmons said.
Olson said the town set aside $725,000 of taxpayer money from the capital improvement budgets over the last two years. The board of finance just approved another $235,000 out of the town’s undesignated fund surplus. The remaining $370,000 will be put in the 2018-2019 capital improvement budget.
Stonington will keep its current system as a backup. The new system could be in place by September, Olson said.