County approves $1.3M communications contract

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County officials on Monday supported an agreement with a Chicago-based communications firm for a $1.3 million upgrade of the county’s 911 and radio communications network.

The Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee voted at the County Office Building to enter into an agreement with Motorola Solutions. Pittsfield Communications of Latham will be the local vendor that Fulton County will work with, on behalf of Motorola. The contract is for a VHF analog hi-band simulcast public safety radio system upgrade. Officials say the project will “simplify” 911 dispatch operations.

The full board will vote March 12 on the contract. The project has already been approved for 2018.

Fulton County is paying $507,549 of the cost, or 38 percent. The state is paying $814,022, or 62 percent.

The county will be receiving a VHF system upgrade for a countywide, four-channel analog narrowband VHF simulcast system.

“It’s our next logical step to clear up some of our communication problems,” county Civil Defense-Fire Coordinator Steve Santa Maria told the committee.

The Board of Supervisors in 2017 accepted a capital plan that included county funding for the upgrade. Santa Maria said he received a letter last week indicating the county will be receiving a $429,721 state Interoperable Communications Grant.

Santa Maria explained that Fulton County currently utilizes four towers for emergency communication dispatching involving police, fire and EMS. He said this situation currently “leads to some complications.”

“Our dispatchers are constantly switching back and forth [between towers],” Santa Maria said.

With a structure fire involving several agencies, he said “it really gets confusing” for the 911 dispatcher.

This new analog simulcast system will allow the dispatcher to press one button to communicate with towers.

“It will also help us in some of our gap areas,” Santa Maria said. “We’ve added some equipment for a fifth [tower] site.”

Santa Maria said Fulton County is also looking at possibly tapping into a fifth communications tower in Herkimer County or Saratoga County.

The county official said that there is never 100 percent communication in every geographical area. But he said the new system “will greatly increase our capabilities.”

Each simulcast site will be equipped with four base radios, receivers, and analog gateway units for accurate performance, Santa Maria said. Each site will receive a power plant to maintain uninterrupted power during generator startup. Each site will also receive the necessary equipment to interface with the county-owned microwave system to communicate better with the 911 center on Route 29.

Equipment in the sheriff’s department’s radio room will be replaced, and audio will be upgraded.

Additionally, Santa Maria said any necessary cabling, connections, antennas and various smaller components needed to make the system operational will be installed by Pittsfield as part of the contract.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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