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County moves to fill in communication gaps

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The communications tower on Blue Hill in Livingston. Greene County plans to install a cell tower in Twilight Park in Haines Falls too help fill gaps in 911 communications.
September 20, 2019 05:14 pm

CATSKILL — Greene County lawmakers voted Wednesday approved upgrades to a cell tower in Twilight Park, a historic district in Haines Falls, which will improve communications for first responders.

Greene County Department of Emergency Services, through a state Homeland Security Interoperable Communications grant, will create a “fill-in” communications site. The county Legislature approved the first stage of the project, which will be performed by Stilsing Electric of Rensselaer for $93,700.

“We switched onto our new radio system last Tuesday,” Emergency Manager Specialist Daniel King said Friday.

By using high-band frequencies, radio coverage has improved greatly in the county, King said.

“We found that some tower sites were not adequate because of the terrain,” King said. “The areas of North-South Lake, Kaaterskill Falls and Horseshoe Bend are particularly difficult because of the topography.”

These areas are notorious for emergencies, whether they are car accidents or hiker rescues, King said. They are equally notorious for weak radio signals.

“This site fills in the coverage in this area,” King said. “It will provide clear communication back to the 911 center for first responders.”

Having the cell tower in this area will be beneficial to all, King said.

“It will help everyone,” he said. “People will have better cell coverage when they call 911.”

Having a tower in this location will also help direct calls to the right county, if the cell phone carrier uses that tower, King said.

“AT&T and Sprint will be leasing the tower,” he said, adding that Verizon is expected to join in 2020.

King expects it will take about six weeks for the contractor to obtain all the parts necessary to assemble the cabinet and generator at the site, he said.

The cabinet will hold all the electrical equipment for the site and is climate-controlled, King said.

“Then we will have a radio vendor come and install the radios and antennas,” King said.

Completion of the project may be pushed off until spring, depending on the weather, he added.

The radio transition from low-band to high-band was part of a four-year communications overhaul at the dispatch center.

The upgrade cost about $2 million, with the computer-aided dispatch system at $1 million, the radio upgrade at $750,000, the phones at $500,000 and the voice recording system at $100,000.

Emergency medical services and law enforcement are using the new radio system. Fire departments will switch over Oct. 9, King said.

“We are light years ahead of where we were,” Greene Emergency Medical Services Deputy Director Randy Ormerod said. “There have been a lot of advancements in the last four years. It’s mind-blowing to me.”