TUPPER LAKE - Franklin County has been awarded $3.4 million to upgrade its emergency services communication infrastructure.
Most of the money will be used to upgrade the county's four existing relay tower sites by making them taller and sturdier. The base stations at each site will also be upgraded.
Ricky Provost, director of Franklin County Emergency Services, said it's also likely the county will add a few new towers.
"Towers are built for what you put on them," Provost said. "Some of the tower sites that we have are 40 or 50 years old, and the equipment 40 or 50 years ago is much different than what it is today. Microwave dishes can be 6 or 8 feet around. In the old days, there was no microwave (equipment), so the old towers weren't designed to handle the wind and the weight of the equipment that we're putting on them today."
The net result of the upgrades will be a cheaper and more far-reaching network of communication between 911 centers in adjacent counties.
"This money will allow us to hook into the new $16 million system Essex County is putting in," Provost said. "It gives me access to Pisgah Mountain, it gives me Mt. Morris in Tupper Lake. I've never been able to do that before without using infrastructure from Verizon or AT&T."
Using that infrastructure costs the county about $1,200 a month, an expenditure that will disappear once improvements have been made.
Provost called the grant money phase 2 in improving the county's microwave infrastructure. Phase 1 came a couple years ago when the county received a $365,000 grant to put in some baseline microwave equipment and a new pager system for Franklin County fire and EMS.
Phase 3 will involve acquiring a high-band-radio frequency tower in Canada.
Provost said about $1.3 million of the grant will also be used for end-user equipment, which will put new radios in the fire and EMS vehicles within the county. He added that some of the local police departments will also get some of that equipment.
An emergency services board meeting Thursday will hash out the details on exactly how, and when, the grant will be spent.
"It's not easy spending that kind of money," Provost said. "There are a lot of things that have to come together in terms of procurement before we can even start the process. We will spend most of this winter in preparation of the construction season next year, and hopefully we'll have the ability to build those things by this time next year."
Provost added that emergency services Deputy Director John Bashaw put a lot of time into writing the grant, and that Franklin County got every dime it asked for.
The money was part of $75 million in Statewide Interoperable Communications Grants announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Tuesday. Cuomo also announced an additional $5 million in grants for specific emergency services like technical rescue and bomb squads.
The latest announcement marks the third round of Statewide Interoperable Communications Grants. Including this current round, 53 counties across the state have received a total of $197 million.
"New York has seen some of the nation's worst disasters in recent years, and this $80 million will go a long way to strengthening the network of locally-based emergency response infrastructure across our state," Cuomo said in a press release. "First responders are often the initial line of defense in any critical incident, and supporting their communication abilities is an important way for the state to help safeguard our communities during a crisis. My administration is committed to providing our emergency personnel with the assistance they need to serve their communities."