By Thane Grauel
WESTPORT — The town’s communications system for first responders now links to a statewide network.
Westport recently had two microwave communications dishes installed on a 160-foot-tall communications tower operated by the State Police on Fenwood Lane in Wilton.
One of the three-foot dishes on the lattice tower in Wilton is pointed toward a communications dish on the monopole tower behind the Aspetuck Health District building off Bayberry Lane. The latter site was a former a Nike missile radar site, and chosen by the Army because it’s one of the highest elevations in town.
Those two dishes, about 3.9 miles apart, will beam the town’s emergency radio communications.
The second three-foot dish in Wilton is pointed at another tower, connecting the town with the statewide system run by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
The communications system is already functioning.
The Board of Selectwomen on Wednesday approved an agreement with the state formalizing the arrangement.
“It’s essential networking equipment,” Assistant Fire Chief Matt Cohen told the selectwomen. “It connects Fenwood, which is the state’s core, back to our Bayberry Lane transmitter site.”
“It’s mutually beneficial for the state agencies and for us to augment the system coverage, for both statewide public safety radio network and Westport’s public safety radio network,” Cohen said.
“It’s a zero-dollar amount,” he said of the agreement. “All the work has been completed.”
The agreement is for one year and renews automatically, unless one party wants to back out.
Tapping into the state’s communications network gives Westport’s police, fire and emergency medical personnel statewide connectivity with their radios.
Other town departments can use the system as well. Public Works, he said, recently upgraded its communications and didn’t need to use the system, but will be able once its equipment becomes outdated.
Using the state system also saves the town millions of dollars, Cohen said. Westport was considering spending $10 million to beef up its communications system, which would have involved installing fiber-optic cable and other work.
Linking with the state system will cost the town about $3.2 million, Cohen said.
Cohen said after the selectwomen’s meeting that it’s an impressive communications system and working well.
He said that while visiting a friend in the upstate town of Hartland, on the Massachusetts border, his radio clearly connected with the Westport communications system.