BRATTLEBORO -- The town is going to avoid a sharp increase in what it pays for police and fire radio coverage after a number of community organizations offered to host the radio equipment on their buildings free of charge.
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, School for International Training and Harris Hill Ski Jump all are working out arrangements which would allow the police and fire departments to install equipment on their buildings.
In September the town found out that the owner of the tower on Mount Wantastiquet that the town was using as a communication hub was going to raise the lease from $10 a year to $1,000 a month.
Each of the institutions reached out to offer their locations and interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland told the Selectboard Tuesday that the town has been able to come up with the new plan that will both save money and create a more reliant communication system.
"We've got a better plan developed today than signing a long-term lease," Moreland told the Selectboard at Tuesday night's meeting. "It is one which is going to provide real savings, and one which is built with some key community partners that have made very generous offers to the town."
Along with increasing the monthly lease, CTI, the company that owns the tower, was also asking the town to agree to a 3 percent annual increase.
The town was also going to have to cover all costs associated with maintaining the equipment on the mountain and the power lines that run up to power the equipment
The tower used to be an important part of the cable company's infrastructure for delivering television service but broadband has largely made the tower unnecessary.
The tower sits on land owned by the state of New Hampshire and at the Selectboard meeting Moreland said the state recently raised its land rental fees in a bid to increase revenues, a move, Moreland said, that also contributed to the steep spike in annual costs for police and fire communication equipment.
CTI was asking the town to sign a five-year lease, but Moreland said the town began to look at alternatives.
"We began to look around to see what potential options might be available to help lower costs for the taxpayer over the long haul," Moreland said. "In the end, we were aided in a number of ways by a variety of different community partners."
It is going to cost the town about $57,500 to remove the installation on Mount Wantastiquet and install upgraded equipment on the sites in town.
At the meeting the Selectboard agreed to authorize Moreland to begin working on the project, and then approved a motion to ask Town Meeting Representatives for the money.
The board unanimously approved both motions.
"Upon learning that the town of Brattleboro was looking for a new site to host the police/fire radio repeater, and that BMH was a preferred location, it was our pleasure to work with the town on this, said Rob Prohaska, director of plant services at BMH. "BMH views itself as part of the first responder network for our service area. In that regard we need to work with all the first responders as a team to maximize our resources. For that reason it was without hesitation that we offered the town space on our roof since it enhances their communications ability and at the same time saves the town of Brattleboro from paying an ever increasing monthly fee to site the repeater."
The Police Department has a grant request out that would allow the department to upgrade some of its equipment, which in turn would only require that the department install equipment at BMH.
If the grant does not come through the police department will have to put its equipment on the Harris Hill Ski Jump.
The ski jump and the police department might work out a deal that would allow the department to use the tower for free in exchange for providing police coverage of the annual ski jump weekend.
Brattleboro Fire Department Fire Alarm Superintendent Joe Newton worked with Beliveau Communications and Consulting to come up with the new plan.
Newton helped create an online map of possible high points that would support the equipment.
Tests were conducted and Newton said at the meeting that the new plan will both save money and improve reliability of the system.
"This is a win-win for us. The problem with that site, is that if we lose that site it's the main hub for our system," Newton said. "If we lost that, the whole system will go out. Getting it to a more reliable location is the number one priority. It's in the town's best interest. We're going to save some money and get a more reliable system."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.