$297,000 Homeland Security grant will transform sheriff's communication system

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners yesterday approved acceptance of a $297,100 Department of Homeland Security grant which will allow the Belknap County Sheriff 's Department to install a microwave regional repeater communications system.
Sheriff Craig Wiggin said the new system is state of-the-art and will meet provide 95 to 97 percent coverage of the entire county.
''It ties in with the county and statewide systems and will have a huge public safety benefit,'' said Wiggin. ''Because it can simulcast, everyone on the network, whether they're portable or mobile, will be able to communicate with each other.''
He said that a waiver of the county's requirement for at least three bidders may be needed as few firms have the capability of installing the system, which earlier this year he described as being ideal for the county as it has simulcast capability, can use the existing tower on Mt. Belknap and is capable of being used by the Lakes Region Mutual Aid system in the event of an emergency in which their system went down.
''We're going to put it out to bid this week, but I'm only expecting two bids. It's very specialized work,'' said Wiggin, who added that federal grant regulations do not require three bids.
He said an environmental impact statement will need to be completed as part of the process but that poses no problem as existing permitted sites will be used.
He credited Bill Wright of his department for having handled all the paperwork. ''He took this and ran with it and the grant committee was very impressed with the thoroughness of the application,'' Wiggin told the commissioners.
He said that the grant will allow a long-sought communications upgrade, which had been proceeding on a piecemeal basis to this point, to be achieved in one big step.
Commissioners also approved the recommendation of Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett to enter into a new five-year agreement with Securus Technologies for phone service for inmates at the Belknap County Department of Corrections.
Shackett said that the phone service is a revenue generating project as the county receives a commission of 33 percent of gross revenues on a monthly basis.
In addition to the telephone service ,Shackett also negotiated a replacement for the current Offender Management System in which Securus will provide a jail management product (Xjail) which will provide the county with a complete jail management package which will gather inmate data, manage housing, track programming, integrate electronic medical records and provide information needed to provide necessary statistical reporting.