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Radio upgrade is long overdue

March 6, 2013
Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Good news continues to roll into the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department. Shortly after touting a new mobile command unit through the county Office of Emergency Services, the county received a $6 million grant to overhaul a radio communication system so outdated, it was using technology from the 1950s.

Within minutes of receiving word on the grant award, a wave of excitement rippled through county offices in Mayville.

"Saying it's been overdue is putting it mildly," Chautauqua County deputy fire coordinator for technical rescue Charlie Smith said. "But it's a good start and should cover most of the costs for the county."

For the last two decades, fire and police officials have looked to upgrade the system, which lacks communication capabilities from one end of the county to another.

The county has dumped $2.6 million into keeping the system afloat. However, a drastic move was needed, and quickly, because the state announced last year it was doing away with outdated and inefficient radio technology.

The $6 million came through at the very last second.

County Executive Greg Edwards and Sheriff Joe Gerace stressed without the federal grant, local taxpayers likely would have footed the bill.

"Dollar for dollar you cannot overstate its importance," Edwards said.

Gerace, meanwhile, said the grant will finally allow police and fire officials to communicate seamlessly during all major incidents. That means everyone will be on the same page during major accidents, fires and weather emergencies.

"The biggest thing with all of this is the interoperability we will have with fire and police from one end of the county to the other," the sheriff said.

Sound familiar? It should. The county just recently took ownership of its mobile command truck, which essentially will offer the same critical communication tools but on a smaller scale.

The sheriff's office worked hard putting together the 100-page grant application. They should be commended for making its pitch and succeeding. Those working over the last two decades for the upgrade surely would agree.



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