Wilton, Milford and Mont Vernon agree to two-year extension of communications contract

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/4/2021 4:36:48 PM

After two years at a stand-still, the towns of Wilton, Mont Vernon and Milford have agreed to another two-year extension of their contract to share a communications department.

Milford Area Communications Center, or MACC Base, is co-owned by all three towns and also serves Lyndeborough as a customer. Mont Vernon and Wilton have been clashing with Milford about how to move forward with upgrading and modernizing the system for several years.

The contract agreement is based upon the agreement reached in 2014, and hasn’t been updated since, despite sometimes contentious negotiations between the three owner towns, and an attempt by Milford to establish its own communications system last year.

Wilton Town Administrator Paul Branscombe said the Wilton Select Board will be reaching out to the other member towns to try to restart negotiations this month.

“We have to do something, we know that,” Branscombe said. “And we want to work with our neighbors. Two years go by so fast, as we know from the last extension.”

Since 2013, the towns have clashed over several negotiation points, including voting rights. Currently, Mont Vernon and Wilton each have one vote on MACC Base operations, and Milford, as its largest user and financial contributor, has two. However, Mont Vernon and Wilton have complained that Milford has used its veto power to stymie needed upgrades to the system, while exploring options for its own stand-alone facility.

In March, Milford offered a warrant article to voters that would have established a standalone communications facility at the Milford Police Station, but voters didn’t support the article.

In past negotiations, Wilton and Mont Vernon have sought longer-term contracts, as well as language to make a path for large-scale improvements to the system, and have also sought to reduce Milford’s two votes to a single vote and remove their veto power. Conversely, Milford has proposed increasing its voting power on non-monetary issues to three votes, giving the town a controlling interest, based on its larger financial interest, as Milford pays 71 percent of the cost.

In October, Milford requested updated proposals for communications systems and equipment, with the intent to outfit a communications department at the Milford Police Station.

So far, there has been little ground gained in the negotiations, leading only to extensions of the existing contract, though Wilton and Mont Vernon continue to push for a commitment from Milford to maintaining the current system, rather than further attempts to step out on their own.

Branscombe said the two-year extension of the contract is a compromise, and there is concern that it gives sufficient time for Milford to try again to put forth a warrant article for a stand-alone facility, leaving the other towns uncertain about the future of MACC Base. Though the facility and equipment is owned by all three towns, it is currently housed in the Milford Town Hall, and Milford pays the majority of the cost to run the department.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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