Norwich, Conn., Approves Police Radio Infrastructure Upgrade

Residents in November overwhelmingly approved the $2.7 million bond ordinance that will replace the low-band radio system with one that piggybacks onto the existing state police version. Now, the project is moving forward.

by John Penney, Norwich Bulletin / August 22, 2019
Shutterstock/Chris worldwide

(TNS) — The Commission on the City Plan on Tuesday approved a special permit for the installation of a new police communications antenna, paving the way to begin a multi-million-dollar upgrade project that will enable the Norwich department to hook into the state's radio network.

The commission unanimously approved the addition of a new 114-foot antenna, along with an upgraded communications substation, at 37 Orchard St., where the department's current telephone pole-projected analog radio hub sits.

Chief Patrick Daley, during the brief public hearing, asked members to support the plan "as voters did in November."

Residents in November overwhelmingly approved the $2.7 million bond ordinance that will replace the low-band radio system with one that piggybacks onto the existing state police version.

The project, which also calls for adding antenna equipment to a smokestack located at the Wheelabrator waste-to-energy plant in Lisbon, will give Norwich officers access to the state's Trunked Radio System, which is used by several state entities.

In addition to providing relatively seamless communications with troopers – officers would change channels on one radio instead of having to switch off between two devices - the project is also aimed at eliminating the numerous "dead-air" spots affecting police mobile and portable radios in some areas.

The Orchard Street portion of the work, to be conducted by the Motorola company beginning in November, will include replacing the antennas mounted on wooden utility poles with a tower, as well as replacing an undersized shelter with a version featuring better air-conditioning and back-up generator capabilities.

"There will be one gantry-type, three-legged tower instead of a wooden sea of poles," Daley said.

The work is slated to wrap up by March.

Officials estimated it would have cost the city between $6 million and $12 million to build its own replacement system. A $500,000 state grant already paid for new radios.

Once online, the upgraded system would allow Norwich police to communicate with state police, all troop barracks, Groton and Stonington police, both tribal nations' departments and give the city's officers access to any other agencies connected to the state's core network.

Lesli Manrique, who lives next to the Orchard Street site, asked whether the work would affect her family's cable and internet connections.

"We're a big technology family and don't want any disruption," she said.

Representatives from project manager Motorola said their work would not affect neighbors' feeds.

Lisbon officials are expected to discuss the Wheelabrator application in the coming weeks.

With the commission's approval in place, Daley said the next step is to begin ordering components for the job.

©2019 Norwich Bulletin, Conn. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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