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January 29. 2013 10:47PM

Exeter officials propose mass notification system

EXETER - Officials say a mass notification system would have come in handy when a prisoner escaped from a Seabrook police cruiser parked at Exeter Hospital last summer.

That's why selectmen have proposed spending $8,500 to launch CodeRED - a system similar to reverse 911 that allows local governments to send messages out to the public about emergencies on landline phones, cellphones and other devices.

The funding was included in this year's proposed $21 million town budget, which will be up for discussion along with other proposed warrant articles at Saturday's town deliberative session.

The session will be held at 9 a.m. at Exeter High School. Voters will cast their votes March 12.

Town Manager Russ Dean pointed to the escaped prisoner incident as one where the CodeRED system would have been helpful.

In that case, Ryan Fogg of Seabrook was in the custody of Seabrook police when he escaped in handcuffs from Exeter Hospital last July. He was being treated at the hospital and had just been placed in the back of a cruiser when he fled on foot. After a lengthy search, police caught up with him in Kensington.

"A system like CodeRED would allow us to instantaneously, via dispatch, send out a recorded message/text/email blast to alert people not just all around town but a concentrated area, like that particular incident," Dean said.

The system could also be used to alert people to town water or sewer problems and other issues like flooding and road closures, Dean said, adding, "It has great potential for a relatively small investment."

Voters on Saturday will also debate a new three-year contract for firefighters that provides salary increases but also offers savings from changes in health insurance plans. The first year of the contract seeks an additional $28,808 to cover wage and benefit increases, but at the same time saves $21,466 in health insurance, meaning the amount to be raised in taxes would be $7,336. The proposed contract seeks $10,518 in salary increases in 2014 and another $30,567 in 2015, but saves $42,932 in health insurance costs for each of those years.

Other warrant articles up for discussion and possible amendment include the proposed purchase of a new ladder truck for the fire department to replace a 1994 truck. Taxpayers would raise $107,250 to make the first of 10 annual payments this year. The total cost of the new truck would be $961,125.

Voters will also consider a $1,120,000 plan to replace and rehabilitate water mains and sewer lines on Portsmouth Avenue from the High Street and Portsmouth Avenue intersection to the surface water treatment plant. The project would be funded through a bond paid for through water and sewer funds generated by user fees.

jschreiber@newstote.com

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