WINTHROP – Officials are making headway on a large-scale upgrade to Winthrop’s emergency communications system, which is used to dispatch first responders in that town and several others, including Manchester, Monmouth, Fayette, Readfield and Wayne.

The system, which is several years old, is also used by Winthrop’s schools and public works department.

“This is going to be a soup-to-nuts upgrade,” said Town Manager Anthony Wilson. “Everything from computers to radios to anything related to emergency communications is going to be upgraded.”

Town Councilors voted Monday to approve the purchase of property on 123 Metcalf Road, using $77,300 of American Rescue Plan Act funds. The land, previously owned by the telecommunications company Consolidated Communications, houses Winthrop’s emergency communications tower, which would be replaced with a taller structure.

The town also plans to construct a building on the property to house radio infrastructure.

As part of the system upgrade, the plan calls for providing the Town Office and schools with radios that can be used to summon help when needed and setting up a digital marquee to display  messages on Main Street and Highland Avenue.


Preliminary estimates from a couple of years ago for all the upgrades came to around $1.2 million, but, with inflation, that figure is now expected to be higher, Wilson said.

Last month, the Town Council assigned $988,120 of surplus funds to capital reserves. Following a meeting of departmental directors later that month, officials unanimously agreed to prioritize upgrading the emergency communications system.

Vernice Boyce, the town’s financial director, suggested redirecting the majority of the surplus funds to cover the costs of the upgrade.

A recommendation was also made to allocate $127,561 out of the available $197,561 in ARPA funds for the project.

In addition, the town has been saving $90,000 every year for the past few years in anticipation of this upgrade. That balance sits at $385,910.

During Monday’s meeting, however, councilors tabled a motion to allocate surplus and ARPA funds toward this project, saying the allocation was premature. Council members requested clearer cost estimates before making the allocations official.


Some also raised questions about how much other towns that use the emergency communication system would contribute.

“We will speak with the other towns about this. We have let them know that we are going to embark on this project,” said Wilson. “They know that we are expecting some contribution.”

Wilson said he did not know what year the system was last updated, but that it took place a long time before he was hired in May.

The town is currently working to hire a consultant by the end of the year who will oversee the design and implementation of the upgrades.

Discussions about contributions from other towns will resume once a consultant provides a plan and cost estimates. After estimates are solid and the contributions by the different towns are finalized, the council will revisit the recommendations regarding the allocation of surplus and ARPA funds.

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