Sabattus police, fire see Homeland Security grants for ‘critical’ systems

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SABATTUS — For one part of town, it means first responders can finally hear each other on emergency airwaves. For police, it means no more sticking close to your cruiser to use a portable radio.

Town Manager Andrew Gilmore said the town of Sabattus received word from the Maine Emergency Management Agency that it has been awarded two U.S. Department of Homeland Security grants: $24,220 for the Fire Department and $28,580 for police.

The Fire Department will reprogram radios, invest in a new Base Repeater System and buy a new Voter System.

Gilmore said the Voter System serves as a signal amplifier. “We have a section of town where the fire substation is — it’s been a dead zone for years because of the topography.”

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This fixes that, he said. The new repeater addresses another issue: The current transponder can only transmit a message or receive one, not both.

“A lot of times they were talking over each other,” Gilmore said. “The repeater allows transmission and reception at the same time.”

With its grant, police also will buy a new Voter System, and they will install a new antenna and purchase eight portable radios.

Current police radios only work when officers are close to, and within sight of, their cruisers. They can’t be relied upon during a foot pursuit or inside a home.

“It’s a real safety issue for an officer,” Gilmore said. “It’s critical they have communication with backup.”

New equipment could be online in March.

Joanne Potvin at the Androscoggin Unified Emergency Management Agency helped the town with its grant application last fall, and several surrounding towns wrote letters of support, Gilmore said.

“We were thrilled,” he said. “It’s a sizable amount of money the taxpayers would have had to fund because these are critical communication systems.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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