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With the adoption of Ordinance 16-2020 on Thursday, May 14th, the Hanover Township Committee authorized a $1,110,000 capital expenditure to begin the first phase of a multi-year project to enhance and modernize the infrastructure supporting all communication and technology platforms of municipal departments, buildings, parks and recreation facilities. The initiative, which is anticipated to be done in three phases to be separately funded over several years, will see the upgrade of all municipal radio systems, including police, the office of emergency management, and public works. Other milestones will include the installation of a new VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone system connecting all Township facilities, upgrade of Township computers, networks, and firewalls, and installation of security cameras and other equipment to improve public safety and security.
A key component of the undertaking is the construction of a Township owned fiber-optic network supporting and integrating systems. The fiber-optic network will not only provide connectivity and reliability of voice and data service, but it will also pave the way for the municipality to add public safety and security improvements for the next twenty years to more easily leverage advances in technology. Reducing reliance on outside service providers for additional bandwidth needed to support the communications infrastructure and its future growth should eliminate many of the current ongoing service fees in place now.
Township Business Administrator Joe Giorgio highlighted the more immediate and far-reaching benefits of constructing the municipally owned fiber-optic network. “In the near-term,” he stated, “we’ll be improving and modernizing our existing security and communication platforms to better protect and serve the community. Down the road, we’ll be able to consider options like automatic license plate readers, closed circuit t.v. monitoring of our facilities and possibly regionalization with neighboring municipalities for mutually beneficial disaster recovery programs.” Giorgio added that the recent challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic brought the current restrictions of our connectivity and networks into greater focus and support the need to rebuild the infrastructure.
Hanover Township Police Chief Mark Roddy commended the Township Committee for their decision, which he considers an important investment in the Township’s future. “I’m thrilled the governing body opted to address more immediate communication and security needs with a longer-term solution. It’s visionary and will position the Township to continue to improve public safety and security for many years to come.” Chief Roddy added that the initiative will build on the installation of Motorola Callworks 9-1-1 police phone system, the upgrade of the dispatch consoles, and portable radios which were completed in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The rebuild of the current radio system installed in 1995 will ultimately enable movement to an encrypted digital system, migration to a new frequency, and multi-site simulcast system. The end result will be better radio coverage and a way for the Police Department to keep pace with future Township growth.
To assist in preparing plans, design drawings, and specifications, including observation and oversight services during the implementation of Phase I, the Township will retain the services of JCT Solutions (formerly Johnston Communications) in an amount not to exceed $110,000. Last year, JCT Solutions had been tasked with assessing the Township’s current communication infrastructure to identify needs and offer solutions for upgrading it with a focus on integration, reliability, and future growth. The governing body based their decision to move forward with the capital project based on the January 23, 2020 “Technology and Security Review Report” prepared by JCT Solutions following the communication consultant’s analysis.
Phase I will focus on the upgrade of the Police Department’s radio communications system. This phase includes the installation of a new fiber-optic network connecting the Police Department’s communications tower located on Baird Place (the northern portion of the municipal fiber network), site readiness and security components at all three existing tower sites, and the acquisition of new mobile radios, a digital capable radio logger, and all related hardware. Phase II will include the construction of the southern portion of the fiber optic system, computer and data network upgrades, and a new phone system. Phase III will see the installation of security cameras in various locations throughout the municipality to protect Township facilities and help ensure the security and safety of the residents.
“The project is an ambitious undertaking,” reflected Township Committeeman Brian Cahill, who serves as the governing body’s liaison to the Police and Fire Departments. “The Township Committee thought long and hard about it, and ultimately decided that this is the best way to proceed. From what our Business Administrator advised, this is the first time in the Township’s history that we will be addressing our municipality’s communications and security needs comprehensively. The piecemeal way it’s been done in the past worked, but today’s technology demands integration, service reliability, and flexibility for meeting changing public safety needs.”
When asked to comment on the initiative, Ron Francioli, Mayor and Director of Finance, was quick to point out that the governing body approached paying for the undertaking with the same prudent and conservative fiscal management they apply to all municipal budgeting. “To ease the burden for our taxpayers,” Francioli stated, “we’re tackling the project in phases so we can set aside money in the coming years without the need to involve short-term or long-term bonding.” He added, “It’s a smart investment in the Township’s future. The expandability and connectivity will enhance public safety, security, and communications by bringing the Township’s networks -- now located in several buildings -- under one virtual roof.”