Greenfield City Council approves $163K for new radios for first responders

  • STRAHAN

  • HAIGH

Staff Writer
Published: 1/21/2021 5:02:08 PM

GREENFIELD — The city’s first responders have the green light and the $163,000 they need to buy new radios to improve communications and join a statewide system.

The City Council unanimously approved the money for the digital radios Wednesday night at its monthly meeting, with councilors saying they want to see their community and its firefighters and police officers safe. The $163,000 will be provided from the city’s free cash account.

“We have an outdated system, that if we don’t do this, will cost us a lot more in the long run,” Greenfield Fire Chief Robert Strahan explained. “These radios were purchased 15 years ago.”

Strahan said the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is providing the city with a $322,000 grant to purchase lower-level radios, but he, Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. and Mayor Roxann Wedegartner agree the city needs higher-level radios. Therefore, it is the city’s responsibility to cover the costs of the upgrade. The fire chief explained to councilors that if the city doesn’t do so before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, it will lose the state funding.

“We are going to have to replace these radios, if not this year, next, and if we don’t have the state’s help, it’ll cost about $1.5 million to do it on our own,” Strahan said. “This allows us to merge with the rest of Franklin County to a statewide 800-megahertz radio system, also know as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Interoperable Radio System or CoMIRS. The current radio system is regionally owned, and it is failing. Its design and equipment don’t meet the city’s needs any longer. Getting this help from the state is fortunate.”

He said towns throughout Franklin County have been discussing the changeover for a while, and others, including Turners Falls and Erving, are joining the CoMIRS system. The state has already made the infrastructure upgrades to accommodate Franklin County users and will cover the initial costs for its towns to join.

“These radios will replace the radios we all carry, as well as the ones that are in all of our firetrucks and cruisers,” Strahan said.

Greenfield Fire Department, for instance, will purchase 44 portable radios that are waterproof and heat-resistant, 11 mobile radios, two bases, two even higher-end radios and five mobile repeaters that turn a truck into a power site — they are necessary to allow transmissions from deep in a building to be boosted substantially enough to allow communication outside.

Haigh said the radios will not only allow Greenfield and other Franklin County departments to communicate with each other, but with the rest of the state, if they need to do so.

“These new ones will last 20 or more years, be more robust and be easier to maintain,” he said. “It’s the fiscally responsible thing to do.”

Strahan said the city will exchange its 400-megahertz radio system for the new digital one. The radios are wireless and military grade.

“The county is moving forward with or without us,” Strahan told councilors. “It gives me incredible heartburn to think about how we could lose radio communication with the current system.”

Precinct 1 Councilor Ed Jarvis, a former longtime firefighter and retired deputy chief of the department, said the current radios were purchased “right after 9/11.” He said radio communication is “extremely” important in protecting firefighters whose only means of communicating with others outside of a burning building, for instance, is their radios.

“We need to take care of our first responders,” Jarvis told the rest of the council. “They need good equipment, tools in their toolboxes, to keep us and themselves safe.”

Precinct 2 Councilor Dan Guin said he would not want to be responsible for voting “no” and then having a disaster happen because fire or police lost communications, when city leaders knew it was a possibility. Just before the vote, At-Large Councilor Phil Elmer said the new radios are a “wise investment” for the city to make.

First responders expect to have their new radios and be connected to the statewide system within the next several weeks.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.




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