County gets $3.5M to upgrade emergency communications Rome, Utica and New Hartford to get new equipment; total project expected to cost $7.5 million

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Oneida County has received a $3.5 million state grant that will help fund a substantial emergency communications system upgrade.

On tap is a $7.5 million project that will standardize frequency and technology among police and fire departments, as well as ambulance service providers, throughout the county, according to Kevin W. Revere, director of emergency services. The county’s share could be as much as $4 million.

“This is one big step to having public safety agencies in Oneida County on one radio platform,” he said when asked about the state money, which comes to county through the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant program. The award was announced Thursday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Rome, Utica and New Hartford will get new equipment. Radio infrastructure at county sites will be replaced too. Because of different, incompatible systems used by public safety agencies in the county, not all of them can contact each via radio at present. Revere anticipates the upgrade will be completed by the end of 2017.

Revere said the county recognizes the need to align public safety radio users throughout the county and create an environment where a user only needs one radio within the county for intra- and interagency communications, as well as interoperability with neighbor counties and state agencies.

“We’ve spec’d this out a couple of times,” said Revere. “It’s a fiscally responsible plan.”

He has requested that $4 million in county money be authorized in next year’s capital budget to cover the local share of the project.

The county official noted that surrounding counties spent far more money when they upgraded their radio systems. For example, Madison spent some $20 million on its radio system overhaul.

“Safety for the public and the first responders of Oneida County is our No. 1 job in county government,” said County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “ Today’s announcement by the governor is welcome and I thank him for his continued commitment to our county. We are dedicated to revamping and modernizing public safety emergency communications in all of Oneida County.”

The county was unsuccessful with past applications for money through the the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant program. In this latest round, Oneida County is among 17 counties getting portions of $50 million emergency communications systems. Madison County received $3.5 million too.

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