Few Comments As County Moves Forward Towards New Emergency Radio System

There weren’t many comments, but they were all positive ones at a recent public hearing on the county’s plans to scrap its troubled emergency communications system and replace it.

The hearing was a legal formality — a final chance for public comment on the draft environmental impact statement. The statement is required on public projects that involve construction, as this one will. The county’s draft environmental impact statement finds no significant environmental impacts.

County officials want to get rid of the current radio system for sending emergency messages to police, fire and ambulance crews. The system is supposed to cover nearly all of the county, but various agencies have reported dead zones in coverage. Fulton Police, for example, said that they could not receive messages from the 911 center on handheld radios when officers were in the emergency room at now-closed Lee Memorial Hospital.

“The county’s current system uses proprietary hardware and software, much of which is no longer produced or supported,” by the company that made it, said Richard Mitchell, Oswego County Attorney, who conducted the hearing.

A new system, in the UHF radio frequency band, would overcome the reception problems, help the county’s cities, towns and villages by providing a better communications system, minimize the building of new radio towers by using as many existing towers as possible, and eliminate the need for separate radio systems at the local level, Mitchell explained.

Oswego County Emergency Medical Services Coordinator Jim Jones, in his brief testimony, urged the county to “move forward with this system in an expeditious manner.” He said that emergency responders deal with the system’s problems on a daily basis.

Onondaga County is also building a new radio system. The official in charge of that project, Scott McInnis, lent his support to the project and explained that local police, fire and ambulance crews began using Onondaga County’s new system. He said the environmental effects were small. “We built only three (new radio) towers,” he said. “We basically replaced what we destroyed, tree for tree, bush for bush.”

Their comments and any others received by June 14 will become part of the final Environmental Impact Statement. The approval of the statement will clear a major hurdle towards beginning to build the new radio system.