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Article Published December 2, 2019

Westbrook Faces Anonymous FCC Complaint

By Aviva Luria/Zip06.com

Westbrook has been contacted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about an anonymous complaint filed with regard to the town’s two-way radio project. While the U.S. agency will not divulge the specifics of the complaint, it appears, based on emails sent to First Selectman Noel Bishop over the course of November, that it calls into question the veracity of the town’s own FCC filings pertaining to the project.

The town, which was contacted by the FCC about the complaint on Nov. 26, contends that it has done nothing improper.

The FCC has not yet responded to numerous calls for clarification by the Harbor News.

Tensions surrounding the project flared over the past few weeks as Chris Ehlert, a newly elected member of the Board of Finance (BOF), accused First Selectman Noel Bishop (R) of acting improperly, putting in jeopardy the town’s standing with the FCC, and committing the town to a project that has not been officially approved or funded.

In a Nov. 7 email, Ehlert alleged that Westbrook had “report[ed] to the FCC that Westbrook’s Radio project is complete.” He referred to information on the FCC’s website showing that Westbrook had filed, on Sept. 25, documentation required to retain two pairs of frequencies that it had applied for a year earlier. In addition to being a BOF member-elect, Ehlert is chair of the Ad Hoc Energy Committee and a former Democratic selectman.

Ehlert’s emails were addressed to Bishop and copied to members of the Ad Hoc Radio Project Committee, members of the Board of Selectmen (BOS), the Harbor News, and others.

Paul Zito of New England Radio Consultants, the consultant hired to review the proposed two-way radio infrastructure plan, was not available to address the Nov. 26 complaint; Bishop asked Gregg Prevost to speak with the FCC engineer who is investigating the complaint. A member of the ad hoc committee, Prevost is chief of operations and president of Westbrook Ambulance, captain of headquarters for the Westbrook Fire Department, and technical systems supervisor for Valley Shore Emergency Communications.

Prevost worked with Zito to install temporary transmitters to make operational the frequencies granted by the FCC that would otherwise have expired in mid-October.

“We’re compliant with the [FCC] regulations by having the system live on the air for testing purposes to make sure we’re not interfering with any other license holders,” Prevost said in a telephone conversation with the Harbor News on Nov. 26, after his phone call with the FCC.

“I’ve been involved in about a dozen other radio installations across the county,” he continued. “We’ve done this numerous times.”

Once Zito provides his recommendations and the town makes a decision about the sites that will be used in the final project, any necessary modifications to the site information will be filed with the FCC, Prevost explained.

“There is nothing underhanded” about this, he said.