BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — The city is planning to spend $3.6 million to fix a leaky City Hall, a deteriorating police station and a police communication system plagued by “dead spots.”
In its final meeting before the summer break on Monday, the City Council agreed to Mayor Bill Scanlon’s request to borrow the money for those projects.
Scanlon said the work on City Hall and the adjoining police station is necessary to save the building, while the new communication system could end up saving lives.
“There are dead spots; there are dropped calls, and they could someday result in harm to someone,” Scanlon told councilors.
Scanlon said the city will spend $2 million to repair City Hall, $600,000 for work on the adjoining police station and $1 million to upgrade the communication system.
Scanlon informed the City Council last month that police have been having problems for years communicating on their portable radios. Police officers are sometimes forced to walk outside of a building or move to a different location in order to be heard.
To fix the problem, the city plans to install a new “line of sight” radio system, as well as fiber-optic wires that connect municipal buildings. Scanlon said the current copper lines, which the city leases, are old and susceptible to water damage.
By building its own lines, Scanlon said the city will save $100,000 per year on the cost of leasing lines from the telephone company.
“I think this is a good investment,” Councilor Wes Slate said. “There’s no question that the public services staffs need reliable communication, and if this will enhance that and also get us out of the old copper, it’s certainly money well-spent. We would have to do it at some point whether we wanted to or not.”
Public Services Director Mike Collins said the work will involve upgrading radio transmitters and receivers at six locations throughout the city, as well as running fiber-optic cable to about 35 locations. The Police Department will also get new portable radios.
“Police and fire are going to have an amazing amount of new capability,” Collins said.
As for City Hall, Scanlon said work must be done to prevent leaks in the roof, walls and windows that are causing damage to the building, which was constructed in 1785. Similar repairs are required at the police station, which was built as an annex to City Hall in 1938.
Collins said the work will include removing lead paint from the outside of the building, replacing or repairing about 75 windows, replacing the mortar between the bricks on the facade and putting on a new roof with additional insulation.
Scanlon said the city is ready to award the contract for the work so that much of it can be done by Thanksgiving.
“It’s important to do this before we lose the building,” he said.
Councilor Jim Latter asked if the work will affect plans to eventually build a new public safety facility on land at the Cummings Center. Scanlon said that project is still in the city’s plans for 2019.
In the long term, Scanlon said, city employees who now work at the Memorial Building would move into the current police station when and if a new station is built.
“Things are very tight in this building right now,” he said, referring to City Hall.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.