Word that Suffolk County is moving forward faster than expected in converting its radio communications system from low band to high band could have been a more than $300,000 expense for Shelter Island Fire Commissioners. But the ongoing efforts of one commissioner seems to have found a means of coping with the transition.Commissioner Larry Lechmanski has been attending meetings throughout the county for months to follow the progress of the communication system conversions. He told his colleagues Tuesday night he’d learned that a simulcasting system could be the interim step for Shelter Island, allowing firefighters to receive both high and low band alerts while the disrict gradually transitioned to the high band pagers.
Suffolk County dispatchers intend to continue to use low band alerts until that system “explodes,” forcing its abandonment, rather than putting a great deal of money into trying to repair it.
“They’re going to keep it running as long as it runs,” Mr. Lechmanski said.
Southold, which dispatches for Shelter Island, backed up by Suffolk County, is still on low band service, but that, too, won’t last.
There are approximately 80 pagers in the district. The cost of converting to a reliable Motorola high band pager would be $4,000 per unit or $320,000 for the full conversion.
“You’re talking a ton of money,” Mr. Lechmanski said, explaining why he sought advice on how to convert over a seven or eight year period instead of having to hit taxpayers with a huge bill this year.
The commissioners will set a meeting with Integrated Wireless, the company that has been advising them on communications systems, to further explore costs associated with installation of a simulcast system.
“Right now, we’ve got to invest our money into simulcast,” Mr. Lechmanski said. “We can do it piecemeal without hitting the taxpayers with a big nut right out of the box.”
Elite Towers, the company the commissioners chose to push ahead with the possibility of a new tower at the Manhansett Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane, will be doing some ground inspections within a couple of weeks and then a crane test to determine how high the new tower would have to be to provide service in zones that are currently not reached by the tower at the town Recycling Center.
Elite representatives have told the Commission Chairman Andy Reeve they already have two cellphone companies ready to place antennae on the tower should they gain approval from the Town Board for a special permit to build the tower.
In other business, the commissioners:
• Received word from First Assistant Chief Greg Sulahian that as of December 2, 2014, all new members — even those who might be transfers from other departments — must have background checks to assure they are not registered sex offenders.
In the past, the background check weeded out those with arson convictions, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has instituted the new policy with which all volunteer fire departments must comply.
• Opted to create a list of private snow plow companies that could be called to clear firehouse driveways in the event the Highway Department is unable to get to the firehouses quickly. At issue, said Commissioner Richie Surozenski, is firehouses are sometimes being overlooked in heavy storms and that could pose a danger should an emergency occur and trucks have difficulty rolling out of the firehouses rapidly.
• Selected Michael Johnson as backup secretary/treasurer to fill in should Amber Williams be absent for any meetings.
• Opted to purchase a cap for a truck the department owns so it can be used for routine efforts such as gathering supplies. Until now, the aging 10-2-4 truck has served that purpose, but with the purchase of new truck, 10-2-4 will be gone and commissioners don’t want firefighters using the new vehicle for routine errands.
The cap can be removed so the truck can be used to carry tables and other materials to the department’s annual barbecue site.