By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Malfunctions of the Belknap County Sheriff Department's microwave communication network will be addressed through a $6,000 budget transfer approved by the Executive Committee of the Belknap County Delegation Monday.
"We want a better explanation than we have for this," Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) told members of the committee after he was pressed for an explanation of the request by Rep. Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont), who noted that it was apparent that the equipment had not been working for some time and wondered why it hadn't been fixed.
Taylor said he had hoped Belknap County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy David Perkins would be present to explain what is happening with the communications network equipment, but that Perkins was busy talking with attorneys about an ongoing court case and wasn't available.
He said commissioners were concerned that they hadn't been alerted to the problems by the department and had only found out through a message from Two Way Communications, which contracts with the Sheriff's Department for repair and maintenance of the communications system, that there were problems.
The letter from Two Way Communications System said two of the microwave communications systems that are served by the Belknap Mountain tower at Gunstock are not responding, and a Pinnacle Hill link in New Hampton has been down since early summer.
The company said that the microwave network is not part of the maintenance agreement with the county but that it would have climbers retrieve the microwave units from the Belknap Mountain tower so they can be serviced. The Pinnacle Hill tower has no access for climbers and will require using a crane to get climbers to the top of the tower. Two Way Communications said that it appears that the Pinnacle Hill link is misaligned or that a a new cellular antenna has been installed in its path.
Taylor said it appears that the old communications system used by the department is still in place and that it has allowed the department to continue its communications with no serious interruptions but that the old system will at some point be removed and that it is crucial that the microwave system be repaired before that.
Committee members agreed that it is important to have the work done before winter sets in and authorized the $6,000 transfer, even though the situation had not been explained to their satisfaction.
Felony First issues
The committee also authorized the transfer of $2,500 in the County Attorney's office budget in order to hire part-time workers to help with general office filing.
County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen explained that the new Felony First program at the Superior Court level has increased the workload for her office and more help is needed with routine office procedures, at least temporarily, and that the gap could be filled by utilizing part-time clerical workers already employed by the county.
When she presented her request for the transfer last week to the Belknap County Commission she explained that the new Felony First procedures had proven to be a benefit to her office from the standpoint of being able to work out earlier case resolutions because she has information available she would otherwise would have had to wait several months to obtain.
She said that in view of the electronic filing system for the Felony First program, in which she receives all information on felonies electronically, it seems unusual to her that Belknap County Superior Court still requires a hard copy for all filings.
The committee also approved the transfer of $3,500 to allow Facilities Manager Dustin Muzzey to contract with a private cleaning contractor for some services at the Belknap County Complex and the Sheriff's Department. Muzzey explained that a part-time position in his department has not been filled and that it is unlikely that he will be able to fill the position. He said contracting with a private company would enable the work to be accomplished without resorting to overtime pay for his staff.
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