Montgomery County approves antenna

FONDA — The Montgomery County Legislature approved a third county antenna lease for a radio tower in the town of Minden Tuesday, the final link in the county’s $3.2 million project to upgrade its emergency response radio system.

Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Jeff Smith told the legislature the third antenna is necessary for the county’s project to provide a VHF high-band radio signal to every part of the county, enabling for the first time the ability for all emergency personnel to communicate using the same radio frequency.

“This is so a cop can talk to a paramedic, a paramedic can talk to a firefighter, and vice versa, right direct when they are on the scene instead of going through a dispatcher and bothering them while they are taking 911 calls,” Smith said.

Smith said county has already paid for radio tower upgrades, switching out old antennas and putting in new ones, as well as emergency battery backup systems, at five other radio towers at these locations: Latimer Hill Road in the town of Canajoharie, Esperance Road in Charleston, Reynolds Road in the town of Glen, one at the sheriff’s office and one at Amsterdam Memorial Hospital.

“This is the last tower that we had work to do on and then they have to program their responder radios,” he said. “This will allow our system to be one simulcast, so lets say we dispatch a fire department in Saint Johnsville, now you’ll be able to hear that in Amsterdam, where today you can’t even hear it in Fonda. Plus it will give our first responders the ability to have one radio and all be on the same frequency, and that’s not the case right now.”

Adding the third antenna to the radio tower, which the county leases from Crown Atlantic Company LCC, increases the county’s monthly lease costs by about $400 to $1,200 per month.

Joseph M. Isabel, the legislator for District 8, said he thought the cost increase was reasonable considering the high lease rates right now in the radio tower industry.

Smith said the radio project was the first capital project approved by the Montgomery County Legislature when it was created, the Montgomery County Charter, requires the county to have capital projects. He said the radio project has been in the works for about two and half years and was bolstered by a $1 million U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant. A possible phase two of the project could include connecting highway personnel and school buses to the system.

“At the end of this, if we can have a successful project here and add them in and have bus drivers and highway guys be able to call a cop direct — it just increases the rapid response and the ability to get a clear cut message during an emergency to give instructions and to receive instructions,” Smith said.

By Patricia Older

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