Radio Communication Project Background and History
In 2018, the Town’s Police Department informed the Board of Selectmen that radio communications could not be maintained inside the new Tahanto High School. Modifications were made, and some communication was able to be established, but the radio communications in the building were nowhere near a level that would be considered effective for public safety.
In addition, the board learned that the Police Department's radios had no ability to communicate with surrounding communities for assistance or mutual aid. Currently, all communication with neighboring first responders (during a mutual aid event) must be run through dispatch.
Further, the Fire Department reported that they utilize radios which are no longer being manufactured. Once one of those radios breaks or ceases to operate, there are no replacements available. It had become clear to the Board of Selectmen that the radio communication system, which is over 50 years old, had outlived its useful life.
In 2019, a Boylston police officer was struck by a hit-and-run driver. While in pursuit of the offending vehicle, the officer had to use his cell phone to remain in communication with dispatch, as his car radio could not transmit back to the station. The police union at that time sent a letter to the Board of Selectmen requesting that something be done to upgrade the radio system to better ensure the safety of the Town’s first responders. The Board of Selectmen took this request very seriously and conversations began between the Town and Motorola. The FCC had a lockdown on the issuance of any new radio frequencies, however, and that caused the project to stall.
At the end of 2021, the Town received notice that the FCC had issued a new license to the Town, thereby enabling the Town to restart the project. Due to the aging infrastructure of the emergency communication system and with no or limited communication within the high school, the Town began to advance the project with some urgency.
An assessment of the Town-owned or publicly owned properties was conducted and the site at Stile Road was recommended as the best location for the monopole, in terms of providing an adequate coverage area. The subject property is already in municipal use by the Water District, and it was understood that sitting the new radio monopole on the land of the public utility represented a preferred “dual footprint” (i.e., two municipal uses on one site, rather than acquiring and clearing additional land for the new monopole). It should also be noted that the water tank was constructed in 1978 and the tree growth in the area has now surpassed the height of the tank. Due to the high tree growth, it was likely that the Water District would eventually increase the height of the water tank because the communication systems on top of the water tank are now being disrupted by the trees. With this new project, the Water District will make use of the monopole for its communication system, such that the top of the water tank will not have to be raised (or the tree cover removed).
To advance the project, the Town was required to get new price quotes from Motorola, work with Finance Committee for funding, and present the project at Annual Town Meeting for approval. The Warrant for the Town Meeting was mailed to every resident in the community. At the Annual Town Meeting, a presentation was made about the project (including the installation of the monopole), and there were handouts describing the project for everyone in attendance. Please see below for the file containing the presentation. The Town Meeting unanimously approved the project. Through available federal grant funds (ARPA funds) and Free Cash, the Town has been able to fund this project without affecting the tax rate.
As described, the Town is facing a town-wide safety issue relative to radio communications. The problem is not limited to police and fire, but concerns our Highway Department and the Boylston Water District, as well. The risks presented by a failing or deficient radio communication system are obvious. While the installation of a new radio monopole on the site might be offensive to some, please understand that it is necessary to ensure a reliable, effective radio communication system for the safety of our first responders and for the protection of all Town residents.