With one voice, the New Milford Town Council voted Monday to endorse borrowing $4.2 million to upgrade portable and mobile radio communication for all local emergency services.

The council agreed, unanimously, it is a must-have for public safety.

"This is absolutely essential for public safety and the safety of our responders,'' said councilman Ray O'Brien.

Mr. O'Brien said he'd hate to be a police officer answering a domestic violence call in the northern end of town with the department's current radios.

New Milford Police Chief Shawn Boyne admitted there are places, particularly in northwest and northeast New Milford, where police or firefighters might respond to an emergency with no way to call for backup help.

Public Works crews have large sections of town where they have no reception.

"This has to move forward. Safety has to be our focus,'' Mr. O'Brien said.

He got no argument from his fellow council members.

In a presentation by Motorola Solutions, the council was shown maps of where there is now no service, or there is interrupted service, and offered an overview of what needs to be done to fix the problems.

The first phase would be to include receiver upgrades, as well as some radio reallocations anticipated to cost about $3.6 million. Another $671,000 would be required to buy additional mobile and portable radios, as well as add a Northville receiver site.

Grants will be sought to offset some of the second-phase costs.

Any improvements with a new system would be moving from reliance on telephone-line communication to a microwave system allowing improved service and reception, said Bob Prince of Motorola.

The project would incorporate a five-site, simulcast system with towers and transmission sites along Chapin Road, Geiger Road, adjacent to the Gaylordsville firehouse, the police department and at New Milford High School.

Existing towers would be replaced with towers reaching as high as 130 feet at the police department. The high school would have antennas on the south peak of the roof and equipment proposed to be stored in a third-floor closet.

Police Lt. William Scribner, who is guiding the project, said he has had talks with school officials but will now begin more formal discussions about the actual plans.

Councilman Peter Mullen questioned whether the larger towers might create zoning hurdles. Mayor Patricia Murphy said she wouldn't expect difficulties.

Lt. Scribner said the tower locations have been sited so they will be as unobtrusive as possible.

The town's finance director, Ray Jankowski, said he predicts a 20-year short- and long-term bond issue to pay for the project.

The next phase would be to ask town voters to approve the project as part of a multi-project bond issue at a town meeting in late May or early June.

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