Recently, during our meeting with National Grid officials (previously reported to you via an earlier correspondence), I again discussed the need to bring a comprehensive system on line as soon as possible so as to enhance the tangible steps we are currently engaging in terms of disaster preparedness/response efforts. Mr. Suhoski was pleased to inform me that Chief Ford had identified a system for review and that the necessary funds would be requested during our budget hearings in February - for approval at Town Meeting in June. Though good news indeed, I expressed concern that implementation could still be 5 - 6 months away under such a scenario and as such, left the community open to the potential of another disaster and still a large void in terms of communication with residents. As there are no guarantees that we will not be subject to another disaster (manmade or natural) it would be - in my humble opinion - somewhat irresponsible for us as leaders in the community to delay this until June, if in fact the cost is such that we can easily subscribe to the service now with available funds on hand.
To that end, the Town Administrator has indicated that the cost of the program was quite low, extremely reasonable, and that we could request a very small Reserve Fund transfer to cover the costs of the service from now until the June Annual Town Meeting. This would enable us to expedite implementation and provide a valuable communications tool that would provide residents with access to vital information via a number of methods, (e.g. mobile, landline, text message). I strongly encouraged the Town Administrator to proceed with said request to the Board of Selectmen and ultimately the Finance Committee - as they maintain authority over such - at the earliest possible date. Following that meeting, I continued my advocacy for accessing the service and the Town Administrator indicated that the request would be submitted to the BOS and ultimately the Finance Committee at our next public meeting. I cannot speak as to what will ultimately be decided by the Board and more importantly - the Finance Committee, but I can assure all that I will advocate as strongly as possible on your behalf.
Though this process is far from complete and there is still much work to be done to bring it to closure, we should acknowledge the diligent efforts of Chief Ford in pursuing a range of solutions for consideration, Town Administrator Suhoski for his follow through and commitment to our community's capabilities, and Finance Direct Barbara Barry for her support/guidance in terms of our preparedness efforts.
The Town Administrator reports that the program is currently in use in Spencer MA and that the "Spencer town administrator reports that this system functions very well". An informational video about the software can be accessed by clicking HERE. Additional information about the company can be found HERE.
More information is forthcoming as available.