United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) council continues to deal with delays and costs associated with taking over—and upgrading, the municipal fire dispatch communication system.

At the March 27 council meeting, a $25,000 expense was approved to cover costs associated with retaining project manager Bill Harvey and equipment upgrades.

Counties CAO Stéphane Parisien said the amount was not in the 2019 budget and had to be approved separately by council.

Initially, the counties had set aside $50,000 for the upgrades and for Harvey’s services.

He explained there are three bills that must be paid in connection with Harvey’s work and the improvements that total $11,000, but the authorization of $25,000 was made in case there are further expenses.

Parisien told council that Harvey’s work for the counties on the project is likely close to being finished at this point.

In 2018, UCPR council chose to have a managed communications system under an agreement with Bearcom, formerly Turris, at a cost of more than $3.5 million over 10 years.

That cost has since increased to $3.6 million or $360,000 yearly.

The managed communications will allow for easier, seamless communication across the UCPR territory between all eight local fire departments.

At the March 20 Committee of the Whole meeting, Parisien told council that fire communications equipment on four different towers had to be upgraded.  The equipment is generally located on top of municipal water towers.  Small shed-like structures are also needed to house some equipment on the ground and ensure it is kept warm and dry.

At that meeting, Parisien proposed moving ahead with that work and asked council for a mandate to ask Bearcom to start the work no later than September 1 and assemble the funding needed for the upgrades.

“I agree that we go ahead,” said La Nation Mayor François St-Amour in response to Parisien.

He noted, though, that the condition of the existing equipment should have been addressed during a previous inventory of the system.