BY LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — LEWIS — Essex County is awarding $2 million in construction and purchase contracts for its new Public Safety Radio System.
The $16 million project will get under way with transmitter buildings at tower sites, civil engineering and frequency purchases for the network.
Construction is planned to begin in the spring, once Adirondack Park Agency permits are received.
Expected completion of the multi-channel digital system is late next year or early 2014, replacing a 1950s-era system that often failed or lacked coverage over mountainous terrain.
When the network goes online, it will dispatch and connect all police, fire, ambulance and highway departments in Essex County.
“The system will have interoperability for the first time,” said Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish. “Every agency will be able to talk to every other agency. That kind of interoperability could save lives.”
Interoperability refers to the ability of field personnel using disparate or dissimilar radio systems to communicate with each another.
It has been advocated by the federal government and New York state since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when New York City police could not talk to the Fire Department on their radios. It also came into play during Hurricane Katrina.
Due to the poor communications across various emergency-response agencies called to 9/11, the U.S. government later instituted requirements for improved interoperability on a nationwide basis.
The new system will be dispatched from the Essex County 911 center at the County Public Safety Building in Lewis.
The main contract for civil engineering went to Infinigy Engineering of Latham at $666,600 for wiring, generators and concrete pads for the equipment huts on sites.
United Concrete Products of Wallingford, Conn., will construct the transmitter buildings for $390,000 at Terry Mountain, Wells Hill and Belfry Mountain.
“United Concrete will fly the shelters in and deliver them to the sites,” County Manager Daniel Palmer said.
Riznick Construction of Crown Point also got a contract for site buildings, including Mount Defiance in Ticonderoga, at $216,000.
Buying VHF high-band radio frequencies from Motorola will cost $495,000 total, using a $580,000 federal grant.
“If we don’t have these frequencies, you don’t have the system,” Palmer said.
He said 23 radio frequencies have been cleared with the FCC and Canada. One has an objection from Canada over possible co-interference.
“I think we can get over that (objection),” Palmer said.
The entire project is estimated to cost $16 million, with $10.5 million as the county’s share, the manager said.
“We also have pending a $3.7 million grant application to New York state. If we get it, and we’re hopeful, we’ll be well below the $10 million (local cost).”
The county has authorized a $10 million bond issue for the project.
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