RTM approves $743K to upgrade school emergency communications
Published 6:48 am, Wednesday, March 11, 2015
The Representative Town Meeting on Tuesday gave overwhelming approval to a $743,114 appropriation to upgrade security at the town's eight schools with a new districtwide communications system and 190 portable, two-way digital radios.
The vote in favor of the funding was 30-1.
Board of Education Chairman Michael Gordon said the communication upgrade is one of several recommendations that came from a security audit conducted by Kroll, Inc., a consulting firm hired to assess school security following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
He said the school district has already installed interior lock sets and protective window film over school windows, which also are safety measures recommended by Kroll.
The mass notification system, which will upgrade the existing fire and public address systems, will cost $480,630, said Elio Longo, director of school business operations.
He said that amount includes a 5 percent contingency of $22,900, with about $87,000 reimbursed by a state grant. Longo said the money would fund an additional 420 speakers, 229 exterior and 189 interior. "We found dead spots in areas of the building" with the existing coverage, he told RTM members
He said $262,484 would pay for a digital, two-way radio system. That amount includes a 5 percent contingency, or $12,500, with about $54,360 reimbursed by a state grant.
RTM member Catherine Calise, District 2, asked how the two-way radios would be distributed.
Superintendent of Schools Elliot Landon said the largest allocation of radios, "about 50 to 60 units, would go to Staples High School," with the second largest share to the two middle schools. He added principals, school nurses and head custodians would each get one of the radios.
"Did you study any other school districts?" asked Lauren Karpf, District 7. Landon said that "many districts are doing many things and many are well behind us."
"We don't look at other districts," he added. "We look at what's best for us and our kids."
Landon said the new security funding should ensure that, "We will be in a place where staff and students will be protected as much as one can protect them from outside threats."
"We've already wrapped the schools in plastic," said RTM member Jack Klinge, District 7, adding safety measures won't be effective "if we can't talk to each other."
"We do need an update to a more reliable system," Klinge said, but added, "We've gone about far enough with this funding."
In the words of the boxer Roberto Duran, during a fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, "no mas," Klinge said of the extra appropriations. He suggested that any more money for security measures "come from the operating budget" of the school district.
RTM member Peter Knight, District 8, said he was opposed to the funding and voted against the appropriation.
"We've taken a sledge hammer to crack a nut," he said.