By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — MALONE — Franklin County has been awarded $3.5 million to upgrade communications equipment to better interact with neighboring counties, fire departments and police agencies.
Local police departments also have some money coming.
It took three tries for Franklin County to win the funding from the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant program, offered through the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
County Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost said he has just one year to use the grant funds, so he will meet with legislators this week to seek help streamlining the county’s purchasing process.
“This will build a system necessary to interact with the adjacent counties,” he said. “And I’ll be there Thursday to say, ‘Let’s get this thing started,’ because it will be a challenge to spend the money.”
Provost will be purchasing taller towers for most of the county’s existing relay points and upgrading the base stations at each to best use the microwave equipment.
The Reynoldston Road tower in the Town of Brandon will double in size from 90 feet to 180 feet, the tower behind the Emergency Services Building on Bare Hill Road in Malone will go from 80 feet to 180 feet, and a new tower the county purchased on West Hill in the Town of Clinton will be reduced from 200 feet to 180 feet.
He said towers taller than 180 feet are required to have lights, so he will keep the structures to that height and revise the permits as part of the upgrades.
And even though an existing tower at Mount Pisgah in the Town of St. Armand in Essex County is situated inside the Adirondack Park and under the jurisdiction of the Adirondack Park Agency, Provost is confident he will be able to upsize the existing 100-foot structure there to complete the communications loop.
At the same time, fire departments, emergency-services companies and the three municipal police departments in Malone, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake will receive $1.3 million in high-band-frequency base radio equipment.
If there is any money left over, Provost said, he will upgrade tower sites in Westville and Bombay.
He credited Deputy Director John Bashaw II for the success of the grant application, saying he “did a tremendous amount of work on this.”
Equipment for the interoperable system is expected to last 20 to 30 years, and it could save $20,000 to $22,000 a year because the county would no longer have to pay rent to other entities for tower space for other microwave equipment it uses.
Provost considers this $3.5 million the second phase of funding for communications upgrades.
The first was $365,000 won by the county in a competitive-grant program for improvements to its 911 dispatch public-safety-answering point, and the third will again involve acquisition of high-band-radio frequency from Canada.
In making the announcement Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said $75 million would fund interoperable communications and that $5 million would go to technical rescue and urban search-and-rescue teams, bomb-squad initiatives, canine explosive-detection teams and protection for communities with critical infrastructure used for special events or other sites at risk seasonally.
“New York has seen some of the nation’s worst disasters in recent years, and this $80 million will go a long way to strengthen the network of locally based emergency-response infrastructure across our state,” he said in a news release.
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