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Staff Writer

PEPPERELL — Its proposed fiscal year 2008 operating budget is slightly lower than the previous year’s but the Finance Committee asked Communications Director Frank Quattrochi to explain $40,000 worth of capital expense requests before it votes its recommendation for May town meeting.

The $29,400 central phone system in the FY08 budget is $1,425 higher than the FinCom’s recommended 2.25 percent cap on increases.

Quattrochi said $4,000 would be spent to install two security cameras on corners of the Communications Center to keep an eye on the parking lot, generator, radio antenna and tower. Police vehicles in the parking lot have been vandalized twice and tires have been punctured once, he said.

“We have the opportunity to do this now with other things going on,” he said. “We are the only town in the area that doesn’t have security cameras.”

More of the money would replace two 30-year-old dispatch telephones whose transfer buttons are worn out. Dispatchers have one headset and use two phones in seven-day, 24-hour coverage, while $1,200 would be used to replace a 19-inch touch screen that controls radios and is replaced every other year, Quattrochi said.

He told FinCom member Diane Gaspar the screen and phones can be moved if a new municipal facility is built. He told Jeffrey Teller his department does its own maintenance and that the unit has a long shelf life. System administrator Den Connors selected the brand.

Gaspar questioned the utility of the cameras which might, for example, not be on when something happens. She said experience has shown her that nothing is captured in poor light conditions, and she asked how long data is stored if there is no court order for it.

Quattrochi said street lights help illuminate the areas, the cameras are Infrared and data is stored for one year.

“Our test (security) camera at the transfer station works great,” he said. “We can zoom in and out, it is audio and visual, and joy-stick operated.”

Replacing the town’s alarm system would cost $28,000. Quattrochi explained the system is two alarms in one. Banks, for example, lease phone lines that come directly to the center and digital receivers filter calls from businesses. The second half of the alarm system is linked to Fire Department pull boxes.

“There are no longer spare parts for it anymore,” he said. “Right now (the alarm system) is a service, but if I can get a bylaw passed I’d like to see us set a small fee, probably offering three false alarms per year free, then pay for everything after that.”

Quattrochi said he held off last year, but said he now needs to install a moveable, raised, panel floor in the communications center above electrical wires which are now underfoot and prone to static interference. The floor would cover ripped carpeting that insurance representatives want replaced.

“We have 10 screens now and six more are coming in. We’re moving from two 4-inch screens per station to two 19-inch screens which, according to Massachusetts General Law, cannot face the lobby,” Quattrochi said.

The guideline-exceeding central phone budget reflects increased service and maintenance costs, Quattrochi said. “That’s not to say we won’t strike a better deal,” he added.

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