Making Sure the Lines Are Always Open: Wells Communications

Coordinating emergency communication services during a record-breaking ice storm, installing and restoring emer- gency call boxes along the desolate areas of the Northway and assisting local authorities to communicate with over
1,300 law enforcement personnel during Prison Break 2015— the rain-drenched, three-week manhunt in remote Adirondack forest- land — show Wells Communications at its best. From its offices at 4338 NY Route 22, Plattsburgh, the company works flawlessly behind the scenes to deliver dependable communications, at all times, lead- ing to an increase in public safety.

Offering state-of-the-art Motorola wireless systems, security cam- eras, pagers, and other communication and surveillance technology, Wells Communications designs, installs and maintains 9-1-1 sys- tem equipment and other emergency service systems for police and municipalities in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, and Lewis counties. It also provides equipment and services to local first responders, most of whom are volunteers, as well as to school districts, health care, manufacturing, and the private sector compa- nies throughout the North Country.

Wells Communications began in 1950 near Troy, New York when North Greenbush resident Bill Wells, who had been fixing radios and TVs in his basement for years, became an independent autho- rized Motorola service center. When Ed Kehn, Sr. and son Michael, purchased the business in 1976, he kept the name, and continued to successfully service customers as Motorola added pagers and cell phones to its sophisticated line of radios. A decade later, Kehn pur- chased a Plattsburgh Motorola dealer, Ben’s Communications, and established Wells Communications in the North Country. Kehn, now CEO, recruited his other son, Ed Jr., to return to the family business where he is now the president. In 1989, as the business continued to grow, Mike Milanese moved from his technical position in Troy to sales in Plattsburgh, and eventually, to the role of company vice-pres- ident. Maureen Kehn Milanese returned to day-to-day operations in 2002 after the passing of her brother, Michael.

“9/11 changed our industry,” explained Mike. “Millions of dollars of federal and state grant money became available to improve emer- gency communication systems nationwide and help to secure our borders for emergency responders. Most of the counties have received funding to upgrade their communication.”

“Because there were so many different agencies involved, interoperabil- ity (the lack of) was an issue then,” added Maureen. “The hard lessons of 9/11 have taught us how to overcome these obstacles. That’s what I like about this business. It’s certainly not boring. It’s technology. You learn something new every day.”

Now that cell phones are prevalent, emergency communications sys- tems that use radios and pagers are even more important. “When there’s a disaster anywhere,” explained Mike, “the public imme- diately starts using their cell phones. This means that emergency responders can’t rely on the cell phone network — it gets too busy. Our equipment works outside the cell phone network.”

To make sure crucial equipment works impeccably at all times, Wells Communications employs 20 technicians to install and maintain these critical communication systems. These intrepid professionals must some- times commute to a repair job driving a snow cat up a mountain trail, and do their work while dangling from a radio tower. “We may get a call at 3 a.m. that there’s a problem with communication, and they go out, in any kind of weather,” confirmed Maureen. “When Wells Communications designed and installed the Northway call box system in 2006, those same technicians worked next to cars whizzing by at 65 mph. We had to make sure the entire highway had 9-1-1 service. Moving forward, our tech- nicians keep the system working, and do any necessary maintenance.”

In order to maintain high standards in a busi- ness deeply involved in public service, Wells’ technicians receive ongoing training. “There are always courses they need to take, and cer- tifications they need to keep up to date,” said Maureen. “Education and training is essen- tial in the ever-changing world of technology.”

Wells Communications provides elemen- tary and high school buildings, buses, and administrators with pagers, two-way radios and surveillance cameras to improve safety, accountability and communication among the people charged with teaching, transport- ing and providing safe schools for children. In fact, due to Wells’ Motorola equipment, all school buses have a direct channel to 9-1-1. In addition, Wells has provided emergency communication systems to many college campuses.

As we walked through the inviting offices to the pristine repair shop and garage in the back. Mike gestured to an empty vehi- cle bay and explained how an ordinary Ford Crown Victoria becomes a police car. “It arrives here as just a basic car. It takes us an average of 80 hours to outfit it with emergency lights, sirens, radios, cameras, and a Motorola laptop with an automatic license plate reader networked to the state- wide database. The electronics can add $20-$30-$40,000 to the price of the car.”

“Public safety and service has always been our mainstay,” concluded Mike. “Based on what the client needs, we can design a communi- cation system and provide and maintain the equipment.” Asked what motivates them the most, the Milaneses agreed, “It’s the emer- gency responders we do this for. They make this happen. For most people, it is a volunteer who will save your life. The communication we provide is for them.”

Wells Communications
4338 NY Route 22 Plattsburgh, NY 12901
(518) 561-6266