As documented in a July 2021 report by the Communications Design Consulting Group (CDCG), public safety radio communications in the town of Cumberland are inadequate and the inability of Fire and Police units to talk with each other and dispatch via mobile (in-car) and portable (on-hip) radios in multiple locations in town negatively impacts service delivery and first responder safety. These “dead zones” include areas in the west (Route 100), Cumberland Center (inside school buildings) and the east (Foreside Road and intersecting streets).
The Town of Cumberland was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency to conduct a radio engineering study to properly identify issues and recommend a plan for remediation. The town contracted with CDCG for the study, which when completed, identified the following issues:
- Areas of town have inadequate or no radio coverage (see coverage maps here)
- Components of the town’s radio system are at end of life
- The town’s radios installed at the FAA tower on Walnut Hill are experiencing interference from the FAA radar and this site should be discontinued from use.
CDCG’s plan outlines several steps to provide an acceptable level of radio coverage (defined as 95% in-building coverage for portable radios) for the town:
- New radio equipment including VHF antennas and microwave technology
- Discontinuing use of the FAA tower
- Building a backbone of microwave connected towers across Cumberland:
- A 200’ tower in west Cumberland near the recreation field (to be built)
- Use of an existing 100’ Verizon tower at Val Halla
- A 200’ tower in east Cumberland on Range Way (to be built)
- Use of an existing public safety tower on Chebeague Island
- A microwave path survey has been completed (read the report here)
- A study of the visibility of two new radio towers has been completed to measure the visual impact (see the map here)
Not explicitly included in the report, but critical for inclusion in the town’s plan:
- Contracting with a radio company for annual maintenance / repair and immediate response to system failure
- Capital budgeting for system component replacement
Total cost for this project is estimated at approximately 1.7 million dollars, as documented in a budgetary estimate provided by CDCG. This estimate considers current market conditions and does not include the construction of two new towers in town.
CDCG has studied the potential of Cumberland partnering with the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center (CCRCC) or a neighboring town to realize budgetary and/or system efficiency. Due to the topographical features of our community and the specific needs of the county and other towns, there are no reasonable alternatives.
The total project cost is broken down into several general categories:
Site Work (buildings, generators, cameras)
Project management, engineering, shipping
Mobile and portable radios
POTENTIAL COST OFFSET
Provided that the two proposed new towers are constructed by private entities on town-owned land, the town may expect land lease payments in addition to the expectation that public safety equipment be installed, for free, on the top of the towers. The amount of these land lease payments are obviously subject to contract negotiations but may be approximately $1,800 per site, per month. If accurate, these payments over ten years would equal $432,000 and would offset the cost of this project by approximately 25%.
PROPOSED PATH FORWARD
Contract Zones for new towers
Structural Analysis for Val Halla and Chebeague Towers
RFP for tower in west Cumberland
Identify funding sources
Manager / Council