Upgrades to Groton police radio dispatch endorsed by Town Council

Groton - The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a $100,000 capital project to begin upgrading and consolidating town and city police department radio dispatch systems in the coming fiscal year.

The project would call for $300,000 the following fiscal year. Spending would have to be approved by Representative Town Meeting.

Town Councilor Bruce Flax said the project isn't meant to pressure the city, but to start a discussion and to move forward.

"What we do is not going to pressure them anyway," Flax said. "They're going to do what they want to do."

Groton has three police departments - one each in the town, the city and in Groton Long Point - and this has frustrated some town officials looking for ways to save money.

Town Councilor Harry Watson said the town has to put some "teeth" into what it says, or nothing will get done.

"I'm tired of waiting," he said.

Director of Emergency Management Joseph Sastre last week outlined the plan to upgrade town police dispatching, extend coverage to the city and allow officers from both departments to hear and speak to one another. The town also would have to buy new mobile and portable radios for city officers.

Mayor Rita Schmidt said it's a safety issue. The city and town departments use different radio frequencies so they can't communicate.

Town officers using portable radios also have had trouble receiving clear messages from dispatch at various places in town due to low signal strength, according to a project summary prepared by Town Manager Mark Oefinger.

A study by the Police Executive Research Forum recently recommended the town and city consolidate dispatch services, among improvements.

Town and city leaders have had strained relations recently. At a meeting last week over highways, city and town officials began interrupting one another and arguing over whether the town is responsible for city sidewalks.

At one point, City Councilor Keith Hedrick commented, "Madam Mayor, if this is your idea of a discussion, you're using a different dictionary than I do." He added that the "tone" was like the city was subordinate, and city councilors deserved respect.


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