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November 17, 2009

Oswego County Legislature Approves SEQRA Resolution for New Radio System

The Oswego County Legislature on Thursday began the regulatory review process for upgrading the county’s emergency radio communications equipment, bringing a new communications system one step closer to reality.

The County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution Nov. 12 requesting permission from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to act as the lead agency in the required State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) procedure.

After meeting with emergency responders and gathering input from affected parties for many months, the E-911 staff is close to finalizing plans for a new system. Thursday’s vote is the first stage of the environmental review process.

“We’ve come to a point now where we are close to completing the design process. We are looking at a radio system that will replace our deteriorating infrastructure, meet critical needs in the county, and take us into the future with instant and secure communications capabilities,” said County Legislator Paul Santore (District 16, Oswego), chairman of the Legislature’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee. “The Legislature’s action on Thursday is the culmination of a great deal of work by 911 Program Director Mike Allen, Motorola, the legislative committees, and the county staff. Although there are more steps that we have to go through, we have officially started the process of procuring a state-of-the art mobile radio system.”

County Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann (District 4 - Amboy) said the current radio system is becoming obsolete and has not provided adequate coverage in all areas of the county. The county will be required by the federal government to upgrade its radio frequency from 800 MHz, and staff is working to design a new system that provides better coverage of portable radios throughout the county.

“It is critical that our emergency responders have the ability to communicate with each other in the rural areas as well as the cities,” said Legislature Chairman Leemann. “We rely on approximately 50 user agencies, including 32 fire companies, nine law enforcement agencies, nine emergency medical services agencies, and several other state and local departments. We need to provide them with reliable equipment that can be used in all types of emergency situations.”

In order to improve the portable radio coverage, the county expects that additional towers will be constructed to supplement the existing six radio towers.

Allen noted that the process also involves several neighboring counties. “Through cooperative purchasing and standardizing equipment, we can save the taxpayers money and we can more efficiently communicate in emergencies that cross county lines,” he said.

The next steps in the process will be to determine the final design, wrap up negotiations to reduce costs, and issue bonds for the project.

In addition to Legislator Santore, the Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee includes vice chairwoman Linda Lockwood, District 11; and legislators Shawn Doyle, District 3; Mary Flett, District 17; Kevin Gardner, District 13; Margaret Kastler, District 1; and Lee Walker Jr., District 15.

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