Steuben gets grant of $1.5M from state

Derrick Ek

Steuben County has received a $1.5 million state grant to upgrade communications systems used by police and emergency medical responders.

The $1,523,264 grant was announced by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services last week.

It was part of $20 million awarded to 16 counties across the state to improve first responder communications. The funding comes from the surcharge the state tacks on to cell phone bills.

The grant will pay for a project to switch the system used by Steuben County law enforcement and medical responders from wideband to narrowband, a better technology that also opens up more channels for communication, explained Michael Sprague, director of the Steuben County Office of Emergency Services.

Other related upgrades will also be part of the project.

“It’s going to be a huge improvement for both the users and the dispatchers in our communications system,” Sprague said.

The system used by firefighters will remain the same for now.

The switch to narrowband is something that’s mandated by the Federal Communications Commission to be implemented by the end of 2012, and Steuben County would have had to pay for the project itself if the grant – applied for in May – did not come through, Sprague said.

Another key component of the project, he added, is that it will improve interoperable communications. If first responders are called in from outside the area in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis, they will be able to communicate with officials in Steuben County without having to reprogram their radios.