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O’Leary Fire Department wants to upgrade its radios to improve the department’s communication system. But it needs help paying for it.

They want to buy 23 additional PICS (Provincial Integrated Communications System) radios, but are asking the town to pay the monthly service fee that comes with the new purchase.

The department already has eight PICS radios, which are used by first responders in PEI and supplied by Bell Aliant.

The estimated cost for the 23 new radios is approximately $48,000. Through PEI’s Rural Growth Initiative Fund, the province will pay 50 per cent, up to $25,000, of the cost for the radios with the O’Leary Firemen’s Club donating the other 50 per cent if the Town of O’Leary agrees to pay the monthly service and maintenance fees.

There are two fee packages the council has to consider.

One is an annual fee of about $5,600, or $435 per month, for service and maintenance of the radios. The second price is just over $3,700 a year, around $310 per month, which covers service but not maintenance.

CAO Bev Shaw said going with the second payment package means there wouldn’t be any extended warranty on things like replacing batteries, broken antennas or belt clips.

Council also had to consider other possible fees the town might have to pay associated with the new radios.

For the eight radios the department has right now, the town pays $500 yearly to the federal government for a license to operate them.

In 2015, the province replaced all original PICS radios used by the Island fire service with upgraded PICS 2 radios. Since then, O’Leary has been paying the province a $1,400 fee to use the radios.

Council had questions on whether or not these fees would increase, stay the same or be eliminated with the purchase of the new radios.

“I think we need some more questions answered,” said Councillor Joey Dumville.

Councillor Kevin Maynard, who’s with the fire department, but is on the fence himself about the new system, did explain to council about the reason why the department is looking to upgrade their communication system.

“The problem we’re having with radios is that we get a lot of feedback and a lot of dead zones and we can only go so far with the radios that we have right now,” he explained. “You couldn’t be out on the highway and then be out on the O’Leary road and hear each other with the normal radios, you’ve got to use the PICS radios for that.”

And, like the RCMP, the fire department would have their own channel when using these new radios.

“What’s going on and what has been going, with the designated channels we have now through our old system, all the farmers and anybody with ham radios, it doesn’t interfere with them, but reduces their power,” said Coun. Maynard. “So, this is going eliminate all of that.”

Councillor Judy MacIsaac said the problem isn’t agreeing to the new communication system, but the extra expense associated with it.

Ms Shaw said the fire department needs an answer on whether or not town will pay the monthly service and maintenance fees as they want to move ahead with the application form for the provincial grant.

“That’s what I was wondering, can we wait?” asked Mayor Eric Gavin. “We sort of need more information here.”

As chair of the fire department committee, Councillor Darrel Wood made a motion that he would gather additional financial information associated with the new radios and then send that information via email to Ms Shaw who would then distribute it amongst the other councillors for them to make a decision.

Coun. MacIsaac seconded the motion, which passed.

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