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Claremont to Buy Emergency System in Wake of E.Coli Scare

Claremont — Fire Chief Rick Bergeron anticipates that by the end of January the city will have an automated phone system in place to send public information and emergency notices to residents, businesses and institutions.

Bergeron explained the system to the City Council Wednesday night and said yesterday he has been considering buying one for about 18 months but did not make it a priority because he was leaning toward using the state’s “reverse 911” system when it comes on line .

After last week’s incident, however, when E.coli was detected in a sample of the city’s water supply, city officials decided to purchase a system through a private vendor.

Bergeron said the state’s system would be free, but is for emergencies only, while a city-owned system wouldn’t have that limitation.

“We own it so we can control the (content of the) message,”

Beside a citywide emergency, Bergeron said examples of when notifications could be sent include a missing juvenile, a water main break or road closures . Also, messages can be tailored to a specific geographic area, such as flood prone neighborhoods along the Sugar River during heavy rains or ice jams.

“It is as simple as pulling a map up on a screen,” he said.

The chief said they will probably go with a system called CodeRED from Emergency Communications Network in Florida. The estimated cost is between $8,000 and $10,000 and would be shared among several departments including police, fire and public works.

“Once we come to terms they could have it operational in one to two days,” Bergeron said.

The company has a database of listed phone numbers it could put in the system and would also do “community outreach” to collect additional numbers, Bergeron said. ECN would post a page on the city’s website so those interested could provide other contact information. Notifications can be sent to emails, cell phones, text messages, and landlines, the chief said.

It is also possible that someone could opt out of the system, but Bergeron said that does not seem likely after last week’s E.coli scare.

“We found out with the boil water order, people want it,” he said

The city sent the boil order notification out to schools and hospitals immediately and followed with releases to media outlets. Though the notification was done within a matter of a few hours, it was not uniform and many people found out via social media, phone calls and word of mouth. The boil water order was lifted after 48 hours.

Mayor Jim Neilsen said yesterday the council backed the idea, adding that a vote was not necessary because the money will come from existing budgets.

“I think everyone thought it was a good idea,” the mayor said.

In other business Wednesday, the council voted 9-0 to authorize city attorney Jane Taylor to file with the court a request to dissolve the trust that governs use of the city’s recreation facilities on Broad Street.

When the new community center opens early next year, the city will close down the Bailey indoor pool, Zotto gymnasium and Goodwin Community Center.

The property and buildings are included in a trust that was established when a gift was given to the city by Mary Goodwin in the 1940s and that was followed by a gift a second gift from Josephine Bailey.

The money in the trust had been spent by the 1970s but the provision that the property be used only for recreation remains.

Taylor said court approval is needed to sell the property as is, demolish the buildings and sell the land or use the property for another purpose.

“The facilities are part of the original trust and in order to sell them or use them for another purpose you have to go through the court process to dissolve or change the trust,” Taylor said. “You can’t rent them. It must be recreation or nothing unless you go to court.”

The city has to show that it is not possible to carry out the provisions of the trust, she said.

If the property is sold, the city needs an independent appraisal done and approval from the court on how it wants to use the proceeds of any sale.

Taylor said the court would probably not allow the money to be used for something like paving roads but would allow the establishment of a fund for future maintenance of the community center.

The trust also requires there be a Goodwin Community Center Commission. Taylor suggested asking the court to merge the GCC commission with the Parks and Recreation Commission as the most logical way to go.

The court process to dissolve the trust could several months, Taylor said. In the meantime, she recommended the city “mothball” the three buildings once they are shut down.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.