Norwich voters support $2.7 million for new police radio system

Norwich — Voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question Tuesday to bond $2.7 million to upgrade the decades-old police radio system plagued by dead zones that have left officers without a line to dispatchers to call for backup or explain their situation.

With no active opposition, the third question on Tuesday’s crowded ballot was well on the way to a big victory Tuesday night. Unofficial vote tallies showed 7,526 were in favor, while 2,422 were opposed. 

City Council President Pro Tempore William Nash, chairman of the Public Safety Committee and a retired Norwich police officer, said he was pleased with the outcome and thanked voters for supporting the project he called a critical need for the department.

Off-duty officers held "Vote Yes" signs outside polling places throughout the day Tuesday, including Chief Patrick Daley, standing in the rain much of the time.

Outside the John B. Stanton School polling place, one of the city's largest, Officer Liz Harsley struggled to hold an umbrella and her wet, curling paper sign in a heavy downpour. She tried to wave the sign at the steady stream of cars entering the busy polling place.

The police department’s Chaplains Corps quickly raised $1,700 in September to pay for two billboards depicting a dramatic scene of two police officers chasing a suspect, while two others in the foreground call for assistance. Several privately funded “Vote Yes” lawn signs dotted the city in the weeks prior to Tuesday’s election.

Police Chief Patrick Daley presented the proposed bond plan to the City Council in August in a public presentation. The plan will replace the city police system, which dates to the 1940s, by partnering with the state on its communication infrastructure network throughout the region. Norwich will need some antenna upgrades and some new equipment. The system will work with radios in police cruisers and portable radios carried by officers in the field.

Partnering with the state reduced the cost to the city for a new police radio system from well over $10 million to the $2.7 million proposed in the referendum bond, city officials said. The projected prohibitive cost had led to repeated delays in addressing the well-known police radio problems in the city, despite claims that the current radio system put officers’ and civilian lives in danger.

The city Finance Department calculated the projected property tax impact of the 20-year, $2.7 million bond on a median-valued single-family Norwich home at $11 in fiscal year 2019-20, $14 in the next year and $13 each year for the following three years.

c.bessette@theday.com

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