County Considers Relocating E-911 Center

OSWEGO, NY – With a new radio system in the works, the county’s E-911 center is also considering other options.

The center has been housed on the top floor of the Oswego County Public Safety Center for nearly two decades.

Along with its new system, the center could possibly have a new home.

At Monday’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee meeting, Mike Allen, E-911 program director, sought approval to look at the possibility of relocating the center.

According to Allen, the possibilities include moving to an existing site or building a new center.

The move, he explained would be done in concert with the installation of the county’s new radio system.

“We have occupied the current site for the past 15 years, and it has been in continuous use, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” he told the committee. “The space is getting old and tired. We’d like to look at the possibility of moving the center.”

The committee approved allowing Allen to reach out to engineering/architectural firms to get an idea of what it might cost, what the benefits might be and what are the possible cost-savings as well as other information regarding a possible move.

“I see that there is a building in Fulton that you are interested in. Any particular reason for that?” asked committee member Legislator Margaret Kastler. “Is there another place in the county that might be better?”

“I think that may very well be. While we have looked at several different options, we certainly should be looking at all of our options,” Allen replied. “I look at it as is there existing space somewhere in this county that could be better utilized as a new center. Does that mean we occupy existing space, do we seek out a new space?”

Allen noted they don’t even know if the Fulton site is currently available and if it could be retro-fitted to fit the county’s needs.

Those and other questions need to be answered before the county settles on a choice, he added.

“If we move forward with this idea, one of the things we’d have to do is review what we currently have and get a better grasp of where we need to be in the foreseeable future and then look at the options that are out there.”

Committee member Legislator Morris Sorbello suggested the possibility of having a mixed use site at the county airport.

They have had those discussions and the scope of the work should address all of those possibilities, Allen said.

Committee member Terry Wilbur asked if it was Allen’s hope to have the new center and the new radio system done at the same time.

“We have been wrestling with a lot of different issues, one of them being the logistics of swapping out a communications system in an operational 9-1-1 center. It’s a large undertaking,” Allen said.

There are some physical constraints and equipment constraints that they think they have tackled, he said. Ideally, if they had the room at the center, they’d be putting both systems operational in the same physical space, he added. That way, when the new system is ready, the old system could be pulled out at that time.

“We don’t have that option in our current location,” he pointed out. “That was one of the things that we were thinking about. Would this be an opportunity missed if we don’t do this; five years from now we’d admit we probably should have done that. That’s what I’m trying to find out, is this a viable option.”

Committee member Legislator Louella LeClair asked about the Joint News Center at the airport site as an option.

It’s not county property, Allen said.

LeClair noted the county could build a new center there because of its proximity to the other center.

There are a lot of possibilities there, but a lot of questions as well, Allen said.

“We need a tower site close to where we’re going to be so we can get our signal out. One of the problems that we’re having is some modifications that we have to make to our proposed tower site in the city of Fulton, which is a mile and a half away from the airport. There are some height restrictions because of the airport,” he said. “I would imagine that those same height restrictions would come into play if you’re going to have a center on that (airport) property.”

Money for the study and project would have to come from grants or other sources.

“There are a lot of options out there. There are grant opportunities for building and refurbishing 9-1-1 centers,” Allen noted. “That’s the purpose of this study, to look at our existing facilities and make some general recommendations on a structure and a location that would better suit our needs. And allow us to have a state of the art facility for the next 15 to 20 years.”

There are new revenue steams in the proposed state budget that could also be applied to the project, he added.

The state budget could contain about $50 million for 9-1-1 use, according to Phil Church, county administrator.

“Right now, I’m not sure if that’s for grants or if it will be allocated to every county. That’s one of the reasons that when Mike brought this to me, I said let’s start planning for the future because there might be some money there,” he told the committee. “This would be a great time to at least get started. So as the opportunities arise, we’ve already done some of the groundwork.”

In planning for public safety for the next couple of decades, you might not want to do it piecemeal, not just 9-1-1, he suggested.

There is an emergency operations center in the bottom of the Fulton (County) building, which is more or less a bomb shelter.

There’s not a lot of modern technology there, Church pointed out.

“I believe, right now, it’s not set up for long-term stay,” he said. “An option in this study might be a combination building, a 9-1-1 center and an emergency operations center. The study would look at those options and are we better off staying where we are. I would suggest a more comprehensive approach. If we’re going to do this, let’s plan for the next 15 – 20 years.”

Allen will report back to the committee as the project moves forward.