August 9th Vote: Article 1—Public Safety Communications Equipment Bond

In an emergency every second counts, and each message must be heard and understood. It is critical that fire, EMS, and police units are able to talk to each other, as well as the dispatch center. During natural disasters, fire, EMS, and police units must be able to communicate with public works personnel. The communications equipment must be reliable and up-to-date.

Currently, the City of South Burlington has obsolete equipment, frequent equipment failure, repair parts are expensive or not available. This can lead to compromised communication when it is needed most—to ensure public safety.

On August 9, the voters of the City of South Burlington will be asked to consider a $1.9 million bond issue to fund an update of the public safety communications equipment.


Why does this project need to be funded?

Last fall, the fragility and associated expenses of the current emergency services communications system network was highlighted. This project is driven by the continued improvements in radio technology and by our inability to repair and maintain our current (outdated) equipment.

Currently, the Public Safety Communications Equipment has outlived its service life of 10 years. Purchased in 2003, the equipment was state-of-the-art at the time but has now become obsolete.

New equipment will meet the FCC P25 standard. New public safety radios have been upgraded from analog to digital because of the limitations of analog transmission, and the technological advances provided with digital radio. Deployment of P25 compliant systems will allow for a high degree of equipment interoperability and compatibility.

What is the P25 standard?

Project 25 (P25) is a suite of standards for digital radio communications for use by federal, state, and local public safety organizations to enable them to communicate with other agencies and mutual aid response teams in emergencies. P25-compliant systems are being increasingly adopted and deployed. Radios can communicate in analog mode with legacy radios, and in either digital or analog mode with other P25 radios.

 What is wrong with our current system and equipment?

The system that was designed has served us well. There are 6 strategically located receive sites around the city and 1 transmission site. Recently, the transmission site equipment was removed from the CWD water tank on Dorset Street to a new structure at the same location.

This design provides the necessary coverage for personnel to do their jobs. There is no need to re-engineer or re-configure the system. It continues to serve us well.

However, the 2003 communications equipment currently in use will not be available moving forward. The Public Works department and the Fire & EMS department use an analog system with expiring manufacturer support. The Police department is first-generation digital and no longer supported.

Technological obsolescence has seriously impaired our ability to rely on equipment that is now 13 years old. Replacement equipment and/or repair parts are no longer available for most of the components of our system.

Currently, components of our emergency services network are operating on their back-up systems only, because malfunctioning modules are unable to be repaired or replaced.

When was the last time the equipment was updated?

In 2002, the taxpayers voted to upgrade all public safety communications equipment (Police, Fire and EMS, and Public Works).  This work was possible through a $1.3 million municipal bond, with a 10 year payback.

At the time, we purchased state-of-the-art equipment and were fully aware that it had a 10 year anticipated service life. The system was designed and equipment was installed. It has operated almost flawlessly since it first went on the air.

What is the amount the City wants to borrow as a bond?

Up to $1.9 million with a payback period of 10 years.

What will this cost me?

Because the bond cost is based on your property value, the following is illustrative.

Type of Property Average Value Annual Cost
Condo $226,000 $16.50
House $366,000 $26.72

How will the City use the Bond funding?

The bulk of the project will be to replace the hardware (radio equipment) with new equipment.  The following is a selection of the equipment to be purchased and deployed:

Equipment Departments
Digital repeater system Police, Fire, Public Works
Digital voting receivers and comparators Police, Fire, Public Works
Gateways and microwave links Police, Fire, Public Works
Site coupling/combiner equipment Police, Fire, Public Works
Grounding systems Police, Fire, Public Works
Mobile (vehicle) radios Police, Fire, Public Works
Portable radios Police, Fire, Public Works
Antenna systems for all sites Police, Fire, Public Works
Interagency radio equipment (county, state police) Police, Fire
Emergency Management Radio equipment Emergency Management
Motorcycle radio Police
Vehicle headset systems Fire
Station alerting systems Fire

***This list is not exhaustive, but representative. If this project moves forward, a complete list will be published.
Is there an RFP for this project?

We have the framework which was used for the 2003 RFP upon which to develop the RFP and bid information, as the project is assembled. General cost information was used to determine the amount for bonding.  No vendor has been identified yet.

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