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Orleans OKs 190 radios for first responders

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Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 12:00 am

ALBION — Orleans County police officers, firefighters and other first responders are a step closer to receiving new radios, replacing ones that often are unreliable.

The County Legislature on Wednesday approved buying 190 portable radios for $361,722. The county will work with Harris Corporation in Rochester with the purchase and installation of the radios. Orleans is using grant funds from the federal Department of Homeland Security, money approved three years ago, for the new radios.

The new equipment may not be in use for another 10 months because Harris first needs to replace the “backbone” of the 9-1-1 system at dispatch, located at the Public Safety Building. The company also is replacing the backup system at the civil defense center on West Countyhouse Road.

The new system will replace an analog with digital technology. The Orleans system also will be compatible with systems in Niagara and Monroe counties, allowing emergency responders to communicate on the same system if they cross county borders.

Orleans has been working several years to upgrade its emergency response radio system. But many of the radios programmed by EF Johnson have been unreliable, county officials said. The county in December approved a $1.6 million contract with Harris to take over the project.

Police officers and fire departments have stressed the need for better radios. The current ones don’t always receive and transmit signals, a problem that tends to be more pronounced on the eastern and western ends of the county, which are about 10 miles away from the county’s main communications tower on West Countyhouse Road.

Besides the 190 new radios, the county intends to purchase another 200, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer.

The Legislature on Wednesday also approved an $8,000 contract with J. O’Connell & Associates of Clarence to pursue grant funding through the state’s Interoperable Grant Program. O’Connell was successful in securing money for Niagara County through the program. If Orleans is successful, the grant would help pay for the next order of 200 new radios.

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