Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties score $1.3M in communication tech grants

ALBANY — Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties have been awarded funding from the state to upgrade technology and improve emergency communications.

The State Interoperable Communications Grant, administered by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, has awarded more than $275 million in five rounds to 57 counties and New York City.

Fulton County was awarded $437,407, Montgomery County was given $447,091 and Hamilton County received $471,640 in funding from the program.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday that $45 million has been awarded for counties across the state to upgrade critical technology and improve emergency communications systems. This funding will enable local governments to expand their ability to communicate, exchange valuable data and streamline information through their systems to enhance collaboration and assist first responders.

“In an emergency, every second counts,” Cuomo said in a news release. “This critical funding will improve the quality and efficiency of emergency response capabilities across New York, while supporting the brave first responders who put their lives on the line every day to protect their neighbors and their community.”

Fulton County Civil Defense and Fire Coordinator Steve Santa Maria said his office prepared the grant paperwork and were very happy to see the grant come through.

“We’re extremely pleased to receive this,” he said.

Santa Maria said Fulton County is hoping to use the funds to improve communications in the western portion of the county, along with trying to determine the cost of switching over to a simulcast system.

“Basically what that means is now, depending on what area of the county we are working in, the dispatchers have to select up the correct tower for that area to be able to communicate with whatever agencies are out working in that area,” Santa Maria said.

He said the simulcast system will allow the dispatcher to broadcast across the four tower sites the county currently has.

Santa Maria gave the example of an Ephratah volunteer firefighter who is in Northville for a visit. He said that if a call should go out, that firefighter may not get the page, since they are out of range of the tower that the Ephratah call would be sent to.

“By having that message over all four towers, no matter where are firefighters or emergency personnel are in the county, we would be able to get that message to them,” Santa Maria said.

Santa Maria said the grant may not cover the entire cost of that project, but it might be a piece of the puzzle to getting the issue solved.

“We may be able to do something incrementally, so we’re looking at a lot of those options,” he said.

Santa Maria said the county is also looking to install new communication towers to ensure better coverage. He said his office has been in touch with the owner of Royal Mountain to see about putting a tower there to help with connectivity issues in the western portion of the county.

Santa Maria said Fulton County has also been in contact with Hamilton County Emergency Management about the possibility of Fulton County being able to access some tower space of Hamilton County’s that are near the county line.

Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Jeff Smith said the funds would be going to the sheriff’s office for improvements to the department.

Montgomery County Sheriff Michael Amato said he is still awaiting the official paperwork for the grant before he can create a budget for the funds. Amato said he is hoping the county can obtain new radios with the funds, among other equipment. Amato said the budget for what will be done with the grant must be presented to the Montgomery County Legislature for approval.

Amato said he is happy the county was awarded these funds. He said sheriffs across the state have been trying for years to get more of an allocation from the 911 revenue the state receives.

Amato said Montgomery County, like other counties, gets some of the revenue. He said however that those funds are only enough to operate the systems they currently have. He said there is a little of the funds set aside, but if one of the systems goes down, that money will go toward repairs.

“The state collects this money and we get very little of it,” Amato said. “Just to get any of it makes me very happy for this area to [be able to] invest in the system [in order to] to protect the people who live in this area.”

Santa Maria said the county is thrilled the state is awarding money to see improvements to emergency communication systems in the state.

“It’s nice to know that the governor and the state office of Interoperable Emergency Communications is trying to make things easier for us to accomplish by putting these funds out there,” he said.

Kerry Minor can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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