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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nashua aldermen weigh $6M city radio upgrade

NASHUA – A city-based entrepreneur who helped found a global communications firm and currently works out of its Spit Brook Road office cautioned the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday night that equipment contained in the $6 million upgrade the city is proposing to its public safety communications system will likely be obsolete in just 3-4 years.

Steve Papa, chairman of Parallel Wireless, held up a manual typewriter to illustrate his point, asking the board, rhetorically, “nobody would buy typewriters for the city, right?” ...

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NASHUA – A city-based entrepreneur who helped found a global communications firm and currently works out of its Spit Brook Road office cautioned the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday night that equipment contained in the $6 million upgrade the city is proposing to its public safety communications system will likely be obsolete in just 3-4 years.

Steve Papa, chairman of Parallel Wireless, held up a manual typewriter to illustrate his point, asking the board, rhetorically, “nobody would buy typewriters for the city, right?”

“This is what it will look like in 3 or 4 years. The bond you’re proposing is for equipment that will be obsolete in 3-4 years,” Papa said.

His comments came during the public hearing that asked residents to weigh in on a pair of resolutions that ask aldermen to issue bonds to fund a sweeping overhaul of the city-wide communications system.

One resolution, R-14-052, seeks $750,000 in bonds to design and pay for a new telephone system for all city divisions, including the schools and the fire and police departments.

In a meeting of the aldermanic Budget Review Committee that was held following the public hearing, committee members voted unanimously to table the resolution pending further discussion.

The other resolution, R-14-056, calls for the issuance of bonds not to exceed $6 million to fund the second and third phases of the upgrade, drew more committee discussion.

In the end, the committee approved the measure 5-1, with board president David Deane casting the lone dissenting vote.

The discussion period revolved around whether the city should move forward with the upgrade if the equipment will in fact be obsolete in just 3-4 years.

Alderman at Large Jim Donchess suggested the project should move ahead because “we still need (a system) that won’t fail.”

Papa, who also addressed the Budget Review Committee, said there have been “significant” advances in technology “even in the two years you were studying it,” he said, referring to the upgrade that city Communications Division supervisor Lt. Bill Mansfield presented at the hearing.

Mansfield backed the proposal, which involves contracting with Motorola, the firm the city has been using for years, saying the company guarantees the equipment will continue to be “upgradable as long as we keep up with the upgrades, whether it be to an LTE system or a more enhanced P25 system,” Mansfield said, referring to the acronym for long-term evolution, which is commonly marketed as 4G LTE, and “Project 25,” the new national technology standard for public safety agencies that allows radios from different manufacturers to communicate with one another.

“The problem we have here is that this sytem is 14 years old. All the new systems out there today are upgradable with the most current technology.”

The resolutions discussed Tuesday are part of an overall project divided into five phases, with a total price tag in the range of roughly $7.5 million to $10 million.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).