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Orleans radio upgrade now pegged at $7.1 million

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 September 2013 at 12:00 am

Project includes new transmission towers, 1,100 radios and rebuilt communication system

ALBION A project that has been years in the making and will give emergency responders a new communications system is now projected to cost $7.1 million.

The county increased the maximum cost from $5.3 million to $7.1 million during the Legislature’s meeting this morning. The $5.3 million figure was from about a year ago when the county voted to pursue a maximum of $4.5 million in financing for the project.

The county doesn’t intend to borrow more for the project. County officials expect Orleans may need to use about $4.2 million of the bond to cover its share of the project.

Since approving the $4.5 million bond for the project in April 2012, the county was awarded a $2 million state grant towards the project from the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. That lessens the local burden for paying for the project.

The original scope of the communications upgrade has changed from when the county voted to seek the $4.5 million bond. County officials were eyeing two new radio transmission towers, one on each end of the county that would be leased.

The county instead will pay to build three towers that are 180 feet high. One will be on land owned by the town of Clarendon near its highway garage off Route 31A, the other will be next to the county’s Civil Defense Center on Courthouse Road in Albion and the other will be next to the Medina water tank on Route 31A. Medina and Clarendon both agreed to lease the land to the county at no cost.

“Originally this was a lease versus buy situation, and we’re going to buy,” said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.

If the towers were leased, the county’s ongoing annual costs would be higher, Nesbitt said. By owning the infrastructure, the county can also collect co-leasing fees if other companies want to put communications equipment on the towers.

The county also was considering piggybacking on Monroe County’s communication system, but that was going to cost more than having its won dedicated system, Nesbitt said.

Orleans County approved a $5 million deal last year with the Harris Corporation to rebuild the county’s emergency communications systems. Harris will reprogram 1,100 portable radios and make upgrades to the dispatch center.

The county’s radio system was last overhauled in 1992. The county has one transmission tower on Countyhouse Road. That’s about 10 miles from the eastern and western ends of the county. Firefighters, police officers, and other first responders for years have complained that the county’s current radio system is often unreliable, particularly on the edges of the county.

Harris is manufacturing the infrastructure for the Orleans project at its facility in Henrietta. The new system will meet the P25 industry standard for digital radio communications.

The new towers should be up in the spring and the new system should be operational next summer, Nesbitt said.