SCHENECTADY COUNTY -- Schenectady County will receive $6 million in state funding to upgrade its emergency radio system.
Schenectady was one of seven counties to receive a share of $32 million in funding for emergency communications projects announced on Wednesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
"This funding will allow counties to continue to upgrade and improve their emergency communications systems and, in the process, create a stronger, safer New York for all," Cuomo said, in a prepared statement.
The money comes through the Statewide Interoperable Communications Targeted Grant program, part of a larger effort to establish a statewide unified emergency radio system.
Schenectady County will use the funds to add new radio relay towers that handle calls for police, fire and emergency medical services. The money will also pay for new equipment to connect Schenectady County's radio system with Albany County's.
"On behalf of Schenectady County and all our municipal partners, I thank Gov. Cuomo for this important grant to allow Schenectady County to rebuild our current countywide public safety communications system," said Anthony Jasenski, chariman of the County Legislature. "Every second counts in an emergency. The ability to improve and expand our current radio system will ensure better communication between our dispatch, police, fire and EMTs and provide for a quicker response."
He credited Kevin Spawn, director of the county's unified communications center, and Ray Wemple, mobile radio district coordinator, with developing the grant application. Since 2014, the county has provided central dispatching for the city of Schenectady and the communities of Niskayuna, Glenville, Scotia, Rotterdam, Duanesburg and Princetown.
"This will get us started on better communications with Albany County," said county spokesman Joe McQueen. "There are also 11 areas identified where communication improvements are needed."
While some of the money will be used to install radio equipment on the new Bevis Hill tower in Niskayuna, new tower locations haven't been settled on in other areas, McQueen said.
According to Cuomo's office, the State Interoperable Communications Grant program has awarded more than $450 million since 2010, providing at least some funding to every county in the state, in addition to New York City. A separate earlier grant was targeted for a new tower in Duanesburg, where hilly terrain creates radio "dead spots," though that tower has not yet been installed.
In August, Cuomo announced that every county in the state would receive universal emergency management software to facilitate intermunicipal emergency communications, and that the interoperable grant program had awarded nearly $3 million to Saratoga County, and $2.4 million to Schoharie County.
Also receiving funding in Wednesday's announcement was Hamilton County, in the southern Adirondacks, which was awarded $6 million to add six new communication towers and upgrade three others, as well as adding new radio channels to strengthen communications between multiple agencies.
Other counties that received emergency communications grant awards on Wednesday include Clinton, $2.3 million; Herkimer, $2.3 million; Jefferson, $4.1 million; Niagara, $6 million; and Orleans, $5.9 million.