PARIS — Lovell Fire Chief Tom McKenzie told Oxford County Commissioners on Tuesday afternoon the countywide emergency radio broadcasting system is “staged for disaster.”

McKenzie asked commissioners for funding to conduct an independent, third-party study into the state of the emergency radio broadcasting system.

“It’s critical that the radio system be analyzed by a third-party, professional evaluation company,” McKenzie said. “I’m asking for time and money for critical issue that must be addressed immediately.”

McKenzie said Oxford County’s broadcasting system is a one-way system. Unlike a telephone, where two parties can talk at the same time, first responders and dispatchers have to take turns speaking.

McKenzie also said emergency responders must manually readjust their radios while travelling between towns or risk losing contact with the dispatcher.

McKenzie said the town’s broadcasting system has frequent service dropouts because of weather and equipment failure, leaving the affected area with virtually no communication. When a drop-out happens, McKenzie said, certain agencies that are affected are not always notified when the power comes back on.

McKenzie said the study would cost $50,000 to $75,000 and, pending the results, a switch to a new system would run at least $1 million.

Commissioner Timothy Turner recommended phasing the cost of any needed changes to the broadcasting system into the budget, rather than lumping it in at the same time.

Commissioner Steven Merrill recommended McKenzie seek grants to help pay for the study.

“The study might say (the system) will fail in two years if we don’t start something now,” Turner said.

McKenzie said he expected some communities will object to the cost of repairing or replacing the radio system, but attitudes should change after residents understand the need for a new system.

In other matters, Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright said major changes to the Oxford County Traffic Court are coming in April. District Attorney Andrew Robinson announced the changes during a Maine Chiefs of Police Association meeting in January.

The Oxford County District Attorney’s Office represents police officers in court for traffic violations and misdemeanors. After the restructuring, set to go live in April, police from Oxford, Franklin and Androscoggin counties will prosecute their own traffic cases.

Wainwright said Detective Gary Hill of the Norway Police Department offered to work as an unpaid deputy sherrif for the county, settling violations and fines before they go to trial, similar to the current work of the DA’s office. If a traffic case went to trial, however, Hill could not testify on behalf of the officer who issued the ticket, meaning that officer would have to testify in court.

The commissioners voted to appoint Hill to the position.






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