Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden pulled in a $1.5 million grant from the state’s 911 Department. Ogden said the grant was the largest the sheriff’s office ever received in modern history.
After making the rounds last spring at Vineyard annual meetings, and finance committees and selectmen prior to that, Ogden walked away empty-handed from the Island’s six towns. Ogden asked for a combined $600,000 to help cover the costs of running the communications center. The money just received was granted under the specific condition it not be used to maintain county communications, and only be used to upgrade them.
After he was snubbed by the Island towns, Ogden said matters had become urgent, given the state of the system he was working with.
“I just felt like there was no way we could wait any longer,” he said.
Ogden said he went straight to Frank Pozniak, executive director of the state 911 Department, and explained the unique challenges his department faces on the Vineyard, from the cost of living to the antiquated communication systems. Pozniak brought the issue to Public Safety and Security Director Dan Bennett. Bennett, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, state Sen. Julian Cyr, and state Rep. Dylan Fernandes helped make the grant a reality, he said.
“Right now,” Ogden said of the system, “it’s not safe.”
He explained the VHF system the sheriff’s department uses dates back to 1964. In a three-phase plan, he aims to overhaul and modernize it to within a decade of contemporary standards.
“We’re going to jump 50 years ahead, but we’re still 10 years behind,” he said.
The grant will also help with a 140-foot tower his department intends to erect in Oak Bluffs. Two-thirds of its cost will be drawn from the grant, while the remaining third will be ponied up by the town of Oak Bluffs. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission is scheduled to consider it tomorrow night.
Another recent success of Ogden’s was getting a boost in personnel funding to cover the high cost of living on the Vineyard.
“The development funding gap is roughly equivalent to two years of previously requested Dukes County [communications center] assessments from the Island communities,” a sheriff’s release states, “which means that Phase 1 could be accomplished more quickly, if the local funds were made available in fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The Sheriff’s Office advocated for and received additional $328,138 in funding from state 911 Department for its Support & Incentive Grant, which alleviated the [communications center] personnel funding deficit to a large extent. The request for current and future shared funding will focus on infrastructure development, management, and maintenance of the upgraded radio system.”
Ogden said some Vineyard towns said, Come see us when you’ve got some money from the state. He said he’s coming to see them.