By Liz Skoczylas
The city will be funding a $608,700 radio upgrade to ensure several departments meet federal radio mandates.
City Council unanimously approved the project during Monday's City Council Meeting. The resolution allows Mayor Sam Teresi to enter into a contract with Eagle Radio Technologies in order to meet Federal Communications Commission regulations for all police and fire departments to upgrade to a narrowband radio system by Jan. 1.
"That money covers three departments, it's not just the police department, it's police, fire and the Department of Public Works. Then, there's also some infrastructure upgrades that we have to make," said Harry Snellings, police chief.
New radios will be purchased, as well as an antennae. Some existing equipment, including an antennae currently located at City Hall, will be used in the upgrade as well.
According to Snellings, it could be two to three months before equipment comes in. In the meantime, the affected departments will meet with Eagle Radio to work out a plan.
"We are on a tight timeline here," Snellings said. "Fortunately for us, all we have to do is narrowband our equipment so we can communicate in the analog mode with the county at the beginning of the year. Then, we will be able to complete our project in steps."
Additionally Monday, City Council passed 7-2 Local Law No. 1 of 2012, which allows the city to exceed the tax cap without penalty.
According to council members, the law has already been passed by 359 other municipalities in the state, and it would allow them some freedom against possible mistakes in a difficult budget season.
"We are doing this to ensure that if there is any potential miscalculation, that we are not held responsible for that amount that would be held in reserves. It's good, responsible legislation that we added tonight," said Vince DeJoy, D-Ward 4.
Tony Dolce, R-Ward 2, emphasized that the budget will be tight this year, though passing the local law does not mean that City Council will definitely seek to use it.
"I think people probably know I am one of the most ardent fighters against tax increases," said Tony Dolce, R-Ward 2. "This is no way signals that we are giving ourselves a carte blanche to raise taxes. This is a tough budget."
Steven Szwejbka, I-Ward 1, and Kimberly Ecklund, R-At Large, voted against the local law. Szwejbka backed his nay vote by saying the local law is not in the best interest of taxpayers.
"I truly believe if we are going to get control of the tax in this state, it is going to have to start at a local level," Szwejbka said. "I don't think passing this is in the best interest of our taxpayers."
A public hearing about the local law will be held Oct. 9 in the Police Training Room at City Hall at 9 a.m.