By Kim Siebert MacPhail
Bedford Fire Chief David Grunes, Fire Captain Mark Sullivan, and Police Chief Robert Bongiorno presented a number of major FY14–FY17 projects to the Capital Expenditures Committee on November 28, including funding requests for the following needs:
- an emergency dispatch center;
- a fiber platform project;
- an upgrade emergency communication channels;
- a 1997 ladder truck replacement;
- automatic CPR devices;
- replacement “jaws of life”/rescue tools;
- a replacement inflatable rescue boat;
- an additional vehicle exhaust recovery system;
- ballistic vests.
If all of these major projects were to be ultimately approved at upcoming Annual Town Meetings, the capital requests from these two departments for FY14 would total $589,790; for FY15, $1,571,233; and for FY17, $142,654. No projects have yet been proposed for FY16.
The most extensive and costly projects on the two departments’ combined lists are the emergency dispatch center; the fiber optic platform, including the emergency channel upgrades; and replacement of the 1997 ladder truck.
Emergency Dispatch Center(FY14, $504,690)
According to Chief Grunes, the emergency dispatch center project itself includes three major components:
1) Replacement of the current dispatch console, which was purchased in 2002. The product is no longer manufactured and will cease being supported by the manufacturer after 2016. The current model is not compatible with future system upgrades and presents the potential for “catastrophic failure” due to the age of the technology.
2) Replacement of the fire station alerting system. The current system was originally purchased in 1997; it is also no longer produced nor supported by the manufacturer. It also is not compatible with CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) systems and requires a dedicated copper circuit that is prone to failure.
3) Replacement of the municipal fire alarm controller and decoder originally given to the town as a gift from the VA in 1994 following a renovation at the hospital. Again, the product is no longer supported by the manufacturer; recently, replacement decoder cards have had to be procured through eBay to avoid a system failure. One extra card was acquired through eBay, but the system requires nine cards, all functioning at once, to perform as intended.
Fiber Platform Infrastructure Upgrade (FY15, $641,725)
As planned, the upgraded fiber platformwould accommodate voice, data, video, mobile communications, and public safety radio applications as well as emergency channel upgrades—an additional $92,438 in FY15 for Fire Channel One and $142,654 in FY17 for Police Channel One and Fire Channel Two—are seen to be of vital importance to the community, particularly in light of the following recent emergency communication failures:
the Oct. 2011 snow storm, when an antenna atop the Pine Hill water tower ceased to function, affecting the northwest section of Bedford and requiring three weeks for Verizon to repair it;
Summer 2012, when the Verizon line to the Wiggins Avenue radio receiver went down during heavy rain storms;
Bedford Day 2012, when the main repeater for fire channel 2 failed between Crosby Drive and the police station, affecting communications during the parade.
These outages are associated with the copper wire system and are thought to be a function of the failing infrastructure which relies on town-owned fire alarm and leased Verizon lines.
Bedford resident, Talal Ali Ahmad—a principal at Entrada Communications, who has been advising the Town about next generation data centers and about creating a master plan to guide the fiber platform project—said during the presentation that it would be better for Bedford to be in control of its own communication infrastructure than to payfor the useof Comcast’s or Verizon’s lines.
“We need to build from the ground up,” Ahmad said.
Chief Grunes emphasized that “in order for this to be a viable project, the entire municipal government needs to be on board with this. That’s why Talal is here tonight, why Sherwood Ives [Bedford’s IT Manager] is here tonight. We’ve had preliminary conversations with the Superintendent of Schools, the Town Manager, the DPW Director and the Facilities Director. We—as a group—recognize and believe that we need to develop a master plan. . . .My thought is that we will request a funding amendment to develop a master plan this fiscal year.” The cost of creating such a master plan is estimated to be $15,000.
When CapEx chair Jean-Marc Slak asked Town Manager Rick Reed for a global view on this project, Reed concurred with Chief Grunes and Chief Bongiorno saying that the need to update the communications infrastructure had been under discussion for about a year and a half.
“We realize that we have to do something on a more comprehensive basis,” Reed said. “Each of our departments has our own everyday things we have to focus on, and then the schools have their own focus. There’s really no single entity or person that has taken the leadership on this. We’re fortunate to have someone like Talal—with his level of expertise—volunteering to help us map out how to proceed.”
Upgrades to emergency channels would follow along with the fiber platform project, the final phase to take place in FY17.
Replacement Ladder Truck (FY14, $830,000 or FY15, $900,000)
Fire Department Captain Mark Sullivan presented information about the 1997 Pierce Quint ladder truck, showing slides documenting the vehicle’s extensive deterioration from corrosion and reporting that the vehicle has had to be fully repainted twice and partially repainted several more times. Depending on the year that the department makes the funding request, the replacement cost for the truck will be either $830,000 or $900,000.
When asked what the cause of this particular truck’s corrosion problem might be, Chief Grunes, Captain Sullivan and DPW Director Rich Warrington surmised that the culprit is most likely calcium chloride, a pre-storm road treatment that was introduced around 1997. Warrington stated that after the current supply of calcium chloride has been used up, he does not intend to order any more.