Police Chief and Commission Take Steps Toward Improved Communications
Marshfield Police Department is looking forward to improved radio communications, thanks to new information about radio and tower costs.
After the original budget resolution was approved for new radios in late 2017, the department began researching improved communications towers in preparation for CIP (capital improvement) planning.
Originally the towers were going to cost the department a significant amount of money, but new research reveals that the towers might be more easily attainable.
“The current radio system has been a struggle for the department for years. We still need new radios. We are using technology that is bordering on that unreliability stage,” said Police Chief Rick Gramza. “However, there’s a chance we could upgrade the towers spending not much more than the cost of just the radios.”
Budgeted as part of the City’s CIP, the department worked with a company that specialized in radio towers to determine what the cost would be.
“When we got the quote and the quote came in at 20% of what we thought it would be, and they said you’re going to notice the biggest difference with the antennae upgrades, we thought it was important to look into it,” he said.
With the towers now attainable at a reasonable cost, the department would ideally like to pursue both radios and towers at the same time for maximum benefit.
“We want to do whatever is going to make the community and our officers safer,” said Gramza. “That’s why we pursued the radios initially, because it’s something we can get in our budget and we’ll look at that big cost item in the next few years.”
With the cost of the towers being significantly less than anticipated, the Police & Fire Commission is on board with this plan.
“Our goals are to address police in the next three years and have a solution in place for fire in the next five,” said Commissioner Andy Keogh. “Fire is currently using two radios to communicate – one from inside the buildings to command and then from command to dispatch. This is less ideal for police officers in emergent situations.”
“We want what’s going to help us most right now,” Gramza said. “We were going off the information we had at the time that said fixing the radios was the way to go. But, we need to educate that this is only a small part of the problem and that now the more costly venture of towers isn’t as bad as we thought.”
“I have to look at what is the best way to spend this taxpayer money and keep people safe simultaneously,” he added. “In the immediate time frame, the best way to spend this money is to upgrade our tower system, which will enhance communications and buy us another year with our existing radios. But they will need to be replaced.”
Additional benefits include the ability to improve the towers over time, and adapt them to changing technology as it advances.
“The equipment available is scalable and can increase with the needs of the city adding additional departments,” he said. “The largest impact on community safety is to increase coverage with a simulcast system.”