By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Northumberland County firefighters have high hopes for a new county-wide initiative that will upgrade its communications infrastructure to include county-wide radio coverage (and smoother co-ordination of services) for fire services and public works staff throughout the county.
The approval was shown by the uniformed contingent of fire chiefs from across the county who attended the June meeting of the Public Works Committee of county council, where the project was discussed.
Director of Public Works Denise Marshall said the project originated with a plan to replace the existing county communications tower at the old Boy Scout camp in Northumberland Forest. In exploring what they wanted, they discovered existing towers at Alderville First Nation and Alnwick-Haldimand Township that could work if the old tower was simply taken down and not replaced.
Meanwhile, they applied for additional radio frequency from Industry Canada to address the geographic challenges of a hilly county that made traditional radio service less than completely reliable. And the upgrade to a Digital Mobile Radio System will only strengthen that capability.
Originally, Marshall said, $362,000 had been budgeted to remove and replace the county tower. This new direction – simply removing the tower and upgrading radios – would cost $526,342.15 with HST and contingency, creating a $163,942.15 shortfall.
The price is guaranteed for 60 days, she added, and the project is estimated to take six months.
She told the committee that, since this is a project that benefits member municipalities as well as the county, it is a shared cost. If you divide the shortfall eight ways (the county’s share and that of each of the seven member municipalities), that works out to a cost of just over $20,000 each.
Furthermore, with annual maintenance and operation costs estimated at $55,000 a year, that works out to about $6,800 per share.
Committee chair Scott Jibb stressed not to skimp on maintenance, having seen so many generators that weren’t maintained properly and subsequently failed when they were needed most,
“I have seen failure after failure after failure,” Jibb said, asking about plans in this regard.
Marshall said the plans were for an annual inspection of the generators, but a specific schedule outlining timing and responsibilities would be negotiated.
Committee member Mandy Martin commented on the contingent of 10 local fire chiefs at the meeting, calling it an impressive show of force. Jibb said he considered it a show of support.
Invited to comment on the issue by Martin, two chiefs went to the microphone – Gene Thompson of the Municipality of Brighton and Dave Dawson of Alnwick-Haldimand Township.
“We are looking forward to getting some reliable communications,” Thompson said.
“We have proved over the Christmas holidays during that major storm how important communications can be.”
He added that all the member municipalities have supported this project – financially and otherwise – so the radios are compatible as they switch from analog to digital, “even down to our paging system to be ready for this.”
“It’s absolutely necessary for coverage and the security of our community,” Martin agreed.
The motion the committee passed authorized the work of Bearcom Communications to make the upgrade in the amount requested.