Burrillville CIP budget will fund new $275K police communications center

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BURRILLVILLE – An emergency dispatch system that reportedly has dead spots – and sometimes even has to be turned off when it rains to avoid feedback – is finally set for an upgrade.

The Burrillville Town Council has allocated $250,000 to overhaul the police department’s communications system, a conversion that will also include equipment upgrades for town fire departments. The departments themselves will kick in an additional $25,000, for a total cost of $275,000 this year.

“It is a major concern of mine,” said Councilor Amanda Gingell, making the case for the expense to fellow board members at a meeting in March. “This system that we have is over 20 years old.”

Gingell, who serves as safety officer for the Harrisville Fire Department, said that with the current system, she sometimes has to call Burrillville Police dispatch from her cell phone.

“The system is just… it’s tired,” she said. “I know that the money is a lot. I think it’s super important that we get this.”

Councilor Justin Batalon agreed, noting, “It’s only going to get more expensive as time moves on so I think now would be the time to push the button and see that through.”

The communications center upgrade was presented to councilors as part of the town’s Capital Improvement Project budget, approved unanimously on Wednesday, March 24. The project was recommended last year by Town Manager Michael Wood, but delayed as the region shut down in reaction to the threat from COVID-19.

“With Covid, everything stopped,” noted Wood.

Col. Stephen Lynch told councilors that there are times that the feedback on radios is so bad that those on the road have to turn off their portables.

“Where it affects us, mainly, is in buildings,” Lynch said.

Lynch later told NRI NOW that the first steps in the communications system overhaul will be to engage a project manager to develop the specs for the project, get it out to bid, and select a vendor.

“Timelines will be developed once the project manager and project vendor have been selected,” he said.

Lynch noted that the system is used to dispatch police, fire and EMS services, as well as communicate with the public on all calls for service in the community.

“We also communicate with multiple public safety entities daily on a wide variety of issues,” Lynch said, adding that, currently, Burrillville’s equipment, “is serviceable and functional but it is outdated and needs to be addressed.”

The allocation was part of a total $2,840,280 CIP budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which also includes funding for three portable radioes for the police department at a cost of $13,000; an AV monitoring system at a cost of $11,800; a security gate for the police headquarters parking lot for $9,750; and three new police SUVs for $180,000, with $60,000 of the vehicle expense to come from the town’s operations budget.

This year’s capital improvement list also includes some big-ticket items for the Public Works Department, with $420,000 to be spent on maintenance, including items such as road paving and tree trimming. The town plans to spend $180,000 on professional and engineering services for Public Works projects this year, and $185,000 on other construction projects, including the Well One parking lot.

Another $1,338,000 will go toward new roads projects. Areas slated for repair include Steere Street; Manley Rock; Heredun; Park Avenue; North Hill; Wood; Stewart Court and Burrill Road.

Council President Donald Fox said that the town has made good use of the CIP budget – funded in large part through a tax treaty with Ocean State Power, which is now set to expire.

“This town has been extremely well run in how it has used its CIP or capital over the years,” Fox said. “We’ve used that money diligently.”

Finance Director Leslie McGovern noted that councilors approved Manager Wood’s recommended capital plan in its entirety.

“This was the first year, I think, that they didn’t have any changes, which is great,” McGovern said. “Everyone was on the same page.”

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