The Verona Town Council has approved spending $510,950 on technology for the Verona Police Department, including a new 911 system. The town will make a $25,550 downpayment out of its regular budget and bond for the rest, which is $485,400.
The town will spend $289,477 on a new 911 platform; $137,542 on servers, software and network upgrades for the police; $57,609 on special purpose computing devices for the police and $26,322 for office equipment.
The new 911 system is needed because Verizon has stopped supporting the current platform. Chief Doug Huber, who made presentations on the spending at both the December 16 meeting and Monday night, said the system that Verona now uses has suffered several outages including one on New Year’s Day, when our 911 was down for several hours.
At the December meeting, Huber talked about how his department had vetted possible new 911 systems. They compared both initial purchase and maintenance costs of three systems before settling on one from Cassidian Communications, a product now used by West Orange and the New Jersey State Police and will be used by Cedar Grove. Cassidian is a so-called next-generation system, which will be able to handle emergency calls that come in by text message, something that Verona’s current platform can’t do. “I didn’t want to recommend a system to the Council that couldn’t handle what’s coming next,” Huber said in December.
The new technology also includes upgrades to the Police Departments’s nine-year-old computer-aided-dispatch system. The new CAD will let police officers diagram accidents immediately through their in-car computers, rather than having to come into the office and draw them by hand. It will also be able to scan pictures and documents like domestic restraining orders into the system so they will be accessible from the cars and create an electronic tracking system for lost or confiscated property. The police also will get an upgrade to Info-Cop, the system they use to look up arrests. The current platform is more than 10 years old and does not allow Verona to add new users. The spending also covers more in-car camera systems for the police, which Huber said should improve the reliability of the system.
The spending approved last night is almost as large as that of a resolution that Town Manager Joe Martin failed to get approved last September. That $565,000 bond ordinance contained less spending on the police, but $262,500 for computer hardware and software for other town employees, something that Council members Kevin Ryan and Michael Nochimson believed should not be covered by a long-term bond given the short life of most computer technology these days. Alex Roman, a technology executive who ran unsuccessfully for Town Council last year, told the Council that he had reviewed the new spending plan and was satisfied from both a technology and capitalization standpoint. “The revision on the ordinance improved it significantly,” Roman said.
And while Huber and Martin have both stressed that the Cassidian system could allow Verona to share police dispatch with other towns–a potential cost savings to Verona–there are no immediate plans to do so. In December, Huber told the Council that while Verona tried to partner with seven other towns to get a FEMA grant for a joint system, that project fell through. Elsewhere in the United States, police dispatch is increasingly handled on a county or regional level, or outsourced to private companies.
Ryan called the VPD’s attempt to get the FEMA grant “admirable” last night as he voted for the spending, but seemed frustrated that what he called “a prime example of shared services” couldn’t come to fruition. “This is what we run into in New Jersey in general,” he said. “Everybody in New Jersey runs around doing their own thing.”