Norwich OKs $800,000 bond for technology improvements

Norwich - After several residents on Monday spoke against a proposed $800,000 bond to upgrade technology, telecommunications and heating systems in city office buildings and police cruisers, aldermen voted unanimously to approve the bonding ordinance.

The proposal includes technology improvements including a new telephone system with voice over Internet capability, computer server improvements, wiring upgrades, centralized heating and ventilation controls, new software for finance and building permits, a large format scanner/printer, new police cruiser technology and "such additional improvements as may be accomplished within said appropriation."

Several residents, however, said city officials should have planned ahead enough to budget for these upgrades in the annual budget or the five-year capital plan. Resident Rodney Bowie also questioned the total spending amount for the upgrades as well.

"I find it rather amusing that it's always $800,000," resident JoAnne Philbrick said.

By city charter, the city council can bond up to $800,000 for any one project without going to referendum. Bowie also questioned whether the new technology upgrades were really the second half of the broader project to run fiber optic cable lines through downtown to serve City Hall - allowing the new upgrades to take place.

The city's phone system, which dates back about 20 years, is the top priority, City Manager Alan Bergren and Comptroller Josh Pothier said. Some phones no longer can transfer calls, and others don't receive voicemail messages, Bergren said. Because the system is so old, it's difficult to get parts when phones break down.

The phone system also does not identify incoming callers, an important security consideration, officials said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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