Rindge considers ARPA funds for police equipment, communications upgrades

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Rindge accepted $318,779 in federal COVID-19 relief money and considered proposals for new equipment for the police, fire and library during a public hearing Wednesday.

During its regular meeting, the Select Board accepted the unanticipated revenue and held a public hearing asking for possible uses of the funding.

The American Rescue Plan, a federal COVID-19 relief bill, allows for funding to be used in five main ways: Supporting public health expenses, addressing the negative economic impacts to the public or businesses, replacing lost public sector revenue, premium pay for essential workers, or for infrastructure projects for water, sewer or broadband.

Rindge anticipates receiving a second payment of approximately the same amount at some point in 2022, as part of the second wave of American Rescue Plan funds.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Police Chief Dan Anair and Police Sgt. Rachel Malynowski offered multiple potential uses for the funding to improve police safety and proficiency, including new body cameras and radios and lockers for the police department.

Town Administrator Sara Gravell said the current COVID-19 processes for the police department, designed to reduce potential contamination between officers, promote each officer having an individual radio. Their current lockers, where their PPE are stored, are outdated and in need of replacement, and are not secure enough for securing weapons. New lockers would allow officers to secure their uniforms and weapons when off-shift.

The cost for a new dual-band radio, which would allow for the department to contact mutual aid towns in Massachusetts, is about $4,830.

The cost for nine new lockers for the department is estimated to be about $12,700.

Library Director Donna Straitiff has requested the town consider using the funds for a generator for the library. The total cost of the generator is estimated to be between $43,000 and $45,000.

Straitiff said the library has had a generator on its wish list since the major ice storm in the December of 2008, which resulted in long-term outages across the state.

“The trustees have always wanted to be able to stay open for those kinds of events, just so people have a place to go,” Straitiff said.

The library does not have the sprinkler system that would be required to be an overnight shelter in a state of emergency, but could be a warming station during the day during an outage, Straitiff said, and provide a public location for residents to charge their phones and computers.

“The pandemic just brought it up, that we don’t know what kind of crises might be coming,” Straitiff said.

The Fire Department has also issued a request for new radios for a cost of $2,800.

The Select Board is also considering several improvements to its systems to allow for more virtual access to town meetings, including new computers or laptops, a new screen in the conference room for Zoom meetings, new microphones and a new phone system. It was also suggested by a member of the public that the town use some of the funding to set up a system to allow for the live streaming of Town Meeting.

Gravell said the town has looked into several options to provide remote access to meetings.

“For meetings we had prior, we feel we provided pretty good access, but we could do better,” Gravell said. “If there is an instance we have to go back to that again, new equipment would make it better.”

Gravell said the town has looked into these options, not just for a possible building shutdown, but as a way to provide regular remote access to government meetings.

Anair also recommended the board consider security cameras for the town offices, and stressed a need for better security at the town offices.

The board also considered current needs for the Meetinghouse, which was used during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow for more room for social distancing. The building is currently scheduled for painting, and also needs some minor repairs.

The town is also considering the purchase of air purifiers for town buildings.

Towns must submit a potential uses for the funding this year, but have multiple years to spend the money and complete projects with it. The Rindge Select Board is scheduled to continue the conversation on the use of ARPA funds during its next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. in the town offices.

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