Government Technology

New York Statewide Wireless Interoperable Communications Network Refocused on Regional Systems

April 5, 2009 By

rest of the state. "The major question now becomes can a regional system operated by counties also handle the critical task of communications for state agencies," Grebert said. "And while the answer is certainly not simple, there are many indicators that they can," he said.

Grebert said the state and counties should look to examples of collaboration in the areas of training, homeland security, highway safety and the deployment of SWAT teams for inspiration as the drive for interoperable communications moves forward. "Local police and county sheriffs receive their training side-by-side and have been doing so for decades. It works very well and saves money," he said.

Grebert suggested state officials who may hesitate to participate in county systems may want to heed some of their own advice. "When the topic of high local property taxes is discussed, may state leaders point to the consolidation of smaller units of government into larger units of government as a solution to and as a way to save money," he said. "What we are suggesting here is somewhat of a reverse consolidation, but with the same goals in mind. Consolidate the state effort with all its resources into the regional projects that are clearly making progress with the end result being lower overall cost and earlier completion dates."

Monroe and Onondaga counties already dispatch state police and state park police. Grebert believed other state agencies are considering joining those projects as well.

"Some of the opportunities that we see in collaborating with the state is leveraging our new and existing tower sites that are currently being developed for not only our communications needs but broadband services throughout the state especially the rural areas," said Michael Allen, the director of the Oswego County E-911 public safety center.

"We believe that we can do this by leveraging these networks that are already built throughout the county including our microwave systems that connect, not only our sites and our perspective counties but also the interconnectability we plan to create in our consortium," Allen said.

Snapshot of County Activity

"There are existing trunk systems in Clinton, Genesee Suffolk and Tompkins counties. A number of counties have implemented new trunk radio systems including Nassau, the NYC DoIT, Onadaga County and Rocklin County are all implementing new trunk radio systems," Allen said.

A number of counties are in the procurement process for new trunk radio systems. Construction has already begun in Onondaga county. Madison county has already decided on a vendor. And the other two counties are in the process of procuring for communications equipment. And Oswego, Saratoga, Madison, Onondaga and Cayuga county have an RFP on the street to hire a consultant to help with the migration to the interoperable communications system,

In total, 19 of the 62 counties in the state are currently operating or plan to build trunked radio systems.

State Assistance Needed

"We're looking to the state to provide guidelines and assistance to the counties' use of UHF 700 and 800 MHz bandwidths for county systems," said John Balloni, commissioner of Onadaga County Department of Emergency Communications. "P25 equipment would allow us to interoperate across many jurisdictions providing coverage on VTAC, UTAC. 8TAC, the national interoperable channels."

"Onodaga County has built out the national operational channels in our system as a first step," he said. "We need to continue that build out in our five-county region. That will give us a first level of interoperability to be able to go from county to county and operate on those national interoperable channels," he said.

It is certainly fair to allow state agencies' talk groups access regional systems as it assists in their development of other state agencies' talk groups on these systems, he said.

"We believe the state can help

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