Saratoga County has received nearly $3 million in state grant money to be used to make it easier for the county’s emergency dispatchers to communicate with agencies in other counties.
The funding is part of a larger project that will interconnect police radio systems all the way to the Canadian border. Some $1.7 million of the money will be used to establish redundant computerized communications systems between Albany and Saratoga counties, so each dispatching center could back up the other if one of them went off-line in an emergency.
“If there’s a [police] issue going toward another county, [the other county] will be able to see that in real time,” said Carl Zeilman, Saratoga County’s director of emergency services.
The work is to take place in 2016-2017. Zeilman said that while Albany County is the only partner in the project for now, Schenectady and Rensselaer counties are considering participating.
State-level planning to better coordinate radio traffic between local counties, state police and other agencies has been underway for more than a decade, after plans for a state-operated statewide system fell apart in the late 1990s. Now, the state Department of Homeland Security is providing grant money for counties to tackle the issue.
“Literally decades it’s been talked about, but there never seemed to be the funding or the embracing of technologies to get it done,” said Galway Supervisor Paul Lent, a former county emergency management director.
Officials are gung-ho for it now, though.
“This whole project is going to greatly enhance communications with emergency services, the Sheriff’s Department and other agencies,” said county Public Safety Committee Chairman Phil Barrett, R-Clifton Park.
“It is a great step forward in communications when we can work across county lines.”
The Public Safety Committee on Tuesday recommended the county accept the $2.96 million in grant money. The Board of Supervisors will take a final vote on accepting the funding next Tuesday in Ballston Spa.
Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Richard Castle said the system will include computer software that will put the reporting of police, fire and emergency medical incidents in a single database.
Currently, each county in the region operates its own dispatching center. While they can communicate with each other on various radio frequencies, Zeilman said the new system will make that process easier.
The Public Safety Committee also voted to recommend the county accept a $100,000 state grant for construction of an emergency services storage building at the County Farm property in Milton. It would be shared between the county Office of Emergency Services and the Sheriff’s Department, and would be used for the storage of emergency generators, vehicles and other equipment. “This will put it all in one location,” Zeilman said.