Select Board discusses warrant for Special Town Meeting, town secures emergency radio system

Sept. 11, 2019 | Sarah Heinonen
sarah@thereminder.com

HAMPDEN – “Good job, Chief,” Hampden Select Board Chair John Flynn congratulated Police Chief Jeff Farnsworth on the work he had done to secure an emergency radio system for the town.

Earlier this year Farnsworth received a quote of $1.2 million for the system, but after researching options he received a quote for $517,443.

The lower quote is for a system that uses new technology that utilizes repeaters and receivers similar to the way a cell tower system works. Hampden would be the first municipality to use the system in the area, though Farnsworth said it’s used in other parts of the country.

The system is expandable, so if there is a dead spot, an additional repeater can be secured for approximately $40,000 to $50,000. Interim Fire Chief Ed Poulin said part of the package will be upgrading their radios to a UHF/VHF to allow them to contact other towns if needed.

Flynn asked about the service agreement, which Farnsworth said would run approximately $2,500 a year and would not likely come into effect for 3 years.

When asked about the life of the system Farnsworth said, “comfortably, at least 15 years.” Davenport noted that the proposal include site acquisition fees.

“We would have a little bit of a lease cost,” Farnsworth said it would cost less than the current system.

Farnsworth said the new equipment would be the size of a couple of laptops. There is only one area in which they’d have to put a cabinet to house the equipment. The equipment can be kept in existing buildings in other locations.

The $40,000 that was allocated for the emergency equipment study was not used and can go back into free cash.

There are only a couple big-ticket items slated for the Special Town Meeting warrant. Cliff Bombard, town accountant, said, “There’s enough free cash to throw at some of these things and lower the tax rate.”

A resident on Genevieve Avenue complained about the traffic.

“They think it’s a throughway to Somers Road,” she said. Large trucks have come down the road and then have to turn around, creating hazards for families with young children, the resident said. Flynn said they would reach out to the highway department to install a “Not a Throughway” sign.

Interim Town Administrator Bob Markel gave his first report to the select board. One of the things that the board has asked him to tackle is the ambulance service issue.

American Medical Response (AMR), the company which has been contracting with the town has moved its ambulance out of East Longmeadow since that town has obtained their own ambulance. Now, Markle said an ambulance would likely have to come from Baystate, drastically increasing wait times.

A competitor company, he said, submitted a proposal that would cost $1,000,000 to house an advanced life support ambulance in town or $400,000 for a basic life support ambulance.

 Markle said the town was, “trying to avoid a huge cost or an increase in wait times.”

Markle noted East Longmeadow has an interest in an arrangement with Hampden, though he cautioned, it was “fuzzy and uncertain right now.” The current extension with AMR expires June 30.

The solar bylaw is currently before the Town Council. It needs to be tweaked, but Markle said that it will be on the warrant in time for the meeting at the end of October.

Markle has also been working on a standardized electronic system for timesheet system, as the current system relies on paper and isn’t as organized as an electronic system would be. Markle said auditors are looking at that issue throughout the state.

The town is again eligible for Community Compact Grants from the state, although not all of the 2018 grant money has been used.

“They’re fairly generous with their money,” said Markel.

Davenport said that he had posted information to the town website and links for the Department of Health Information on the risks of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), samples of which had been found in mosquitoes in East Longmeadow.

Flynn noted that almost a hundred people came out to the candidates’ night forum on Sept. 7, in which all four Select Board candidates participated.

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