Published Date Written by Roger AmsdenLACONIA — Sheriff Craig Wiggin this week received approval from the Belknap County Commission to apply for a $300,000 Homeland Security grant for a microwave communications system which he says can be completely installed by the end of the summer.
''It's a state-of-the art system which will meet standards for 95 percent coverage from anywhere in the county,'' Wiggin told commissioners Wednesday morning, when he presented the proposal.
He said that it is an ideal system for the county with simulcast capability and can use the existing tower on Mt. Belknap and would be capable of being used as simultaneously by the Lakes Region Mutual Aid system in the event of an emergency in which their system went down.
He said that there would be no additional cost to the county to acquire and set up the system.
''There's no hard or soft match in the contract. We have to agree to maintain the infrastructure as part of our system,'' said Wiggin.
Commissioners agreed to write a letter of support for the grant, as have local police departments who would benefit from the enhanced capabilities for their own dispatch systems.
Questioned as to whether or not the department would still need a proposed $60,000 capital project for upgrading the current dispatch system, Wiggin said he hoped that would still go forward as it would provide a backup in the case of an emergency.
He said that many of the problems with dead spots in the current system have been solved by the installation of a new tower on Pinnacle Hill Road in New Hampton, which augments two other tower sites, on Belknap Mountain in Gilford and Prospect Mountain in Alton.
Wiggin also said that the current system's base radio system is in bad shape and the main console is blowing three fuses a day, which compromises its effectiveness.
Commissioner Steven Nedeau asked if the change to a microwave system would affect the towns at all and Wiggin said that the only change would be reprogramming their radios.
The sheriff said he expected to know by the end of February whether or not the grant has been approved.