New radio system OK’d for Leicester police

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A new Police Department Walkie talkie system will cover Leicester from “soup to nuts,” and meet or exceed all public safety needs, according to Police Chief James Hurley.

Selectmen on Monday night approved a purchase order of $190,348 to get the Motorola Solutions equipment, which includes 11 mobile units and 25 handsets. They authorized borrowing $138,400 through People’s United Bank with an interest rate of 0.6 percent.

Town Administrator Kevin Mizikar explained that the overall project, approved by town meeting a few years ago, totaled $238,000, which includes proposed upgrades to the Highway and Fire Departments.

As to the police portion, Chief Hurley emphasized that improvements are needed to carry the department “into the future” and to solve the “enormous” current problem of inadequate communications in certain parts of Leicester.

“Everything the officers need has to be on the tip of their fingers and I think this will work well,” the police chief said.

Although the vendors noted that the life span of the mobiles was about seven years, the chief said the upgrade process needed to be continuous. Board members were also assured that their investment would be protected because the Walkie talkies contained embedded software that could be kept up to speed with changing technology.

Selectmen also approved a lateral transfer of police Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr. to Auburn. Chief Hurley said the officer had stayed in town until three of his colleagues who were on sick leave returned to their jobs. He said it was a positive career move for the officer and the town would continue to lose its personnel until a strategic plan was put together to adequately fund the department.

Neighboring communities have opportunities for details, motorcycle units and other programs that Leicester gave up years ago and it is difficult to attract and keep candidates, the chief said.

The department has had to operate with as few as 13 people. “Six or seven years ago, Leicester was the place to come and we got a lot of rsums. Now, our officers are going to Paxton, Oxford, etc. where they have stuff we don’t. That can’t be fixed without money,” the chief added.

Selectman Tom Buckley acknowledged that he wasn’t surprised employees are going elsewhere because of the town’s budget constraints. “I feel like Leicester is the training ground for other communities,” he said. Buckley praised the department for doing a “remarkable” job despite being shorthanded.

The board members also reminded the public that town meeting convenes at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall, where voters will consider a proposed $25.7 million budget.

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