FREEPORT — The town plans later this year to expand its radio communications network for the police, fire-rescue and public works departments from two to four antenna sites, boosting network coverage for all parts of town.

Freeport is expanding its antenna radio communications network to four locations. The green dots mark the towers now on Beech Hill Road and Winslow Park. New towers will be erected at Quarry Ridge and Stagecoach Road/Lookout Drive, as marked by the blue dots. Courtesy / Town of Freeport

Freeport is paying Radio Communications Management Inc. of Portland $350,000 from capital reserves to conduct the work.

The town’s network has two sites – at Beech Hill Road and Winslow Park – which it will upgrade, along with adding sites at Quarry Ridge and Stagecoach Road/Lookout Drive. While the current sites provide “satisfactory coverage while transmitting to reach most locations in town,” in several parts of Freeport “the lower-powered individual portable and mobile radio units used by employees in the field do not have sufficient capability to call back to either the Beech Hill or Winslow Park sites under all conditions,” according to Town Manager Peter Joseph.

That results in “dead zones,” he explained, at which employees can at most times receive transmitted messages but can’t always respond. Nearly all dead zones – including the Granite Street/Webster Road neighborhood in the western part of town and Pleasant Hill Road/Wolfe’s Neck Road/Flying Point Road in the east – will be eliminated, Joseph said.

The current system isn’t in “crisis mode,” he assured, but the dead zones “can be a problem, for sure. … There’s no problem (with) people hearing what’s being sent out from dispatch anywhere in town; the issue is that someone on a handheld portable radio would not always be able to get a signal back to the antenna that it needs to go to, that can then get sent out to everybody else.”

Freeport’s analog system presents limitations due primarily to the town’s “varied topography,” according to police Lt. Nate Goodman.

“Because we have many hills and valleys, this disrupts communications between our cars, officers and other departments within Freeport,” he said. “Another obstacle we wanted to try and surmount was the geology of some areas in town that are dense with granite ledge and bedrock that interfere with the propagation of radio waves between one area of town and the others.”

Buildings, parking garages and basements can also cause signal interference, but the new digital system will boost transmission strength for cruisers’ mobile units, officers’ portable units and base-to-officer communications, Goodman said.

The town erected the original tower at Beech Hill around 1985, he said. Freeport added the second site, at Winslow Park, about five years ago, according to Joseph.

Implementation is due to begin as soon as possible, Goodman said. The town must obtain radio frequency licenses and site work must be completed at some locations. Once underway, the work should run about eight to 10 weeks.

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